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.”

Lagos Poem

17 Jun


Narrow roads with potholes, ditches, and floods

Traffic jams turn a 20 minute trip into 2 hours

Petrol fumes may cause asthma attacks or vomiting.

Motorcycles on the wrong side of the road

Going the wrong way on a wide bridge

Squeezing through tiny cracks and crevices determined to get ahead of the game

Battling with mini-buses, taxis, cars, pedestrians, and street vendors for the right of way

Who will win this aggressive tug-of-war for space on a crowded street? Loud honking incessantly makes one wonder if Lagosians can even hear car horns anymore, or have they become muted, inaudible like the call for Muslims to pray

Like the background noise of conversation

Like the hum of car engines?

Who needs online shopping when there’s ‘Go Slow’ shopping?

Buy anything from phone cards to games from cups and bottled water to sausage rolls from fried plantains to cell phone accessories all while sitting in the (dis)comfort of a vehicle in traffic.

Young boys magically appear at my window

Make kissing noises to get my attention

Perhaps they think if I only saw what they had to offer I would surely buy it.

Taxi drivers want to charge me triple the price cuz [they think] I’m Oyinbo

Mini-buses triple the price cuz it’s raining

Taxi driver tries to charge more for evening traffic

Mini-bus conductor tries to increase the fare because there’s a crowd of people getting on.

In the rush to exit the mini-bus, someone sticks their hand in my friend’s purse but was unable to reach her cell phone or wallet. Luckily.

But it’s the thought that counts.

As I walk through the market something/someone tugs the bottom of my skirt

Children from Niger sent by mommy to beg on the streets because young ones elicit more sympathy.

“Sista, sista” he says grubby hands outstretched

“Aunty please” she asks with pleading eyes

My friend shooes them away and tells me NEVER to give them anything.

It’s all about that naira, that dollar, that pound

People will suck you dry if you let them.

Posted By Erica Williams

Posted Jun 17th, 2003


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    February 25, 2011


    Informative but not too heavy. Thanks for taking the time out to write it!

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    July 5, 2012


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