Erica Williams

Erica Williams (WOCON – Women’s Consortium of Nigeria): Erica worked at the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program at Howard University, in Washington, where she organized material for the African Burial Ground Project. Between 1999 and 2001 Erica worked and studied in Venezuela, Brazil and South Africa. In South Africa, she conducted historical and ethnographic research at the University of Western Cape. Erica studied for her BA at New York University, where she received several travel and research scholarships and volunteered for several different organizations: Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), WomenCare, Face to Face International, The Center for African Spiritual Culture, InI Performance Club, NYU, Golden Rose Awards Banquet Committee, NYU. She also served as Editorial Assistant, Academic Achievement Program Newsletter, NYU. At the time of her fellowship, Erica was studying for a Master's degree in African Studies at Yale University and preparing to start a Ph.D. in Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University. Erica asked many probing questions of AP’s new fellowship program, in person and through her final evaluation: “At the orientation, I noticed the beginning of a possible conflict of interest when I learned that interns were expected to engage in capacity-building at their organizations. But I questioned my ability as a 23 year-old student to tell a 50 year-old experienced, renowned human rights lawyer and activist how to run her organization. Perhaps this is the cultural anthropologist in me, but AP, myself, and future interns must recognize their position as outsiders to Nigeria and to WOCON. Being in that tenuous position creates a dynamic where it is difficult to tell people what they should do, because as outsiders we’re not even accustomed to living in their environment." “For instance, with my office experience in the U.S., I’m used to organizing files in labeled manila folders and hanging file folders in file cabinets. Thus, I found WOCON’s filing system of long folders in a multi-shelved closet impossible to understand. But it works for them. My work experience in the U.S. has also trained me to write out my daily activities, allot a specified amount of time to tasks, and rely heavily on the computer. This is an unattainable goal in Lagos because of the constant unexpected power outages and the fact that sending two emails can take you upwards of two hours. Future interns should be fully aware of the challenges they will face in Nigeria, and even then they may still have trouble adapting to the environment.” Erica also found Lagos to be hard work: “The daily struggles of life in Lagos were another challenge. Constant power outages, traffic jams, torrential rains and floods, painfully slow internet service, and the week-long fuel strike all conspired to make my work more difficult.”

Ko ni suuru (Have Patience)

09 Apr

After years of living in the hustle and bustle of rush-rush New York City, I am finally learning the art of patience in Lagos. I was first told to ‘ko ni suuru’ by a staff person at WOCON when I was waiting for someone to finish talking so that we could go to lunch. Ever since I’ve had to remind myself of those simple, but compelling words at regular intervals. For example, whenever I have a long, comprehensive ‘To Do’ list and the computer wants to freeze up or NEPA strikes again and takes electricity and there’s no fuel for the generator because of the fuel shortage and price hike. Or when I want to go out to buy some bread for breakfast but the streets are flooded after the torrential morning downpour.

Or when there’s 2 hours of traffic between me and my destination. When I’m at the climax of a good movie and the lights go out. When I’m riding in a car with friends coming from a club and we’re stopped five times at police checkpoints where they ask for money. And especially when my morning commute takes a turn for the worst when the bus breaks down on the bridge in the rain and I’m forced to get out and find alternate means of transportation. Yes, I’m learning valuable lessons while trying to survive in Lagos.

Posted By Erica Williams

Posted Apr 9th, 2007

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