Today, we have the pleasure of Interviewing Edidiong “E.CHRYS” Obot. She is a Public Speaker, a Health Advocate, an Environmental Scientist, a Cultural Influencer, a Community Advocate, a Public Servant and TV Personality.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I am a proud first-generation Nigerian–American with strong cultural ties that impacts the community and influences cultural awareness. I am an alumna of Texas Southern University, where I obtained a B.S. in Chemistry and a Master's of Science in Environmental Toxicology in 2013. My career has spanned various industries from the environmental industry research and development, private industry, and, currently, the public sector. I have a passion for giving back to the community both locally and internationally. I am an advocate for empowering the community and transforming lives through various programs that target C.L.A.S.S.E., which stands for Culture, Lifestyle, Advocacy, Spiritual, Strategy, and Engagement. I am intentional about spreading cultural awareness, which can be seen in the organization I founded alongside the founding Board of Trustees, which is the Akwa-Ibom Young Professionals. This organization was formed to empower, preserve, and educate people on the unique Akwa-Ibom people and culture. I view myself as a global ambassador, ensuring efforts to make healthcare accessible to not only my indigenes of the Annang tribe but also in other countries worldwide. I served as part of the Nto Annang Foundation U.S.A. Inc. (NAF) Houston Chapter Medical Oversight Department, where I assisted in maintaining and executing best medical practices in order to provide patients with the best healthcare.
In addition, I currently serve as a
- Global Mentor to South African collegiate students under the Global Mentorship Initiative
- Serve on the National Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (A.N.P.A.) Information Technology Committee
- Serve as the Director of Events for the Bobsled & Skeleton Federation of Nigeria and am a former Goodwill Ambassador to Nigeria and Nigerian Student Fashion and Design Week.
I have had the opportunity to use my voice to promote young professionals from the African Diaspora and focuses on bridging the gap between Africans and African-Americans through resources, education, etc. via 2 television shows that I hosted/produced. My aim is to not only educate and empower the community but to “connect the dots of our community” while promoting culture in an effort to be a “Voice of Professionals in the African Diaspora.” I have served in various leadership roles impacting the presence of minorities in the cultural and art spaces ranging from the City of Sugar Land Cultural Arts Division, African Fashion Week Houston, West African Film Festival, Professional Association of Young Africans, the Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals. I have a strong appreciation for cultural awareness, and I am a supporter of the arts with a passion for connecting cross-cultural ties within the community. I was recently recognized in 2020 Who's Who Diaspora: The Nigerian Story, 2020 Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Black Houston, Top Rising Africans Star Award Under 40 by the Young African Professionals, and highlighted as one of the top 10 women in the African Diaspora making an impact in the community for 2019 International Women's Day by Afrocentrik TV. Coined as “The Connector”, I see myself as a trailblazer, a mentor, and advocate who is driven to accomplish a goal of leaving an imprint on anything she is involved in. I am a fan of the arts, sports, fashion, and enjoy serving at my church.
How did you get into what you do right now? Please tell us more about your journey?
Culture has always been embedded in me since I was a child by my parents. They taught me to be confident in myself, the person I am evolving in, and my culture. As an American born Nigerian, I fit into a category that's unique in a sense where I'm learning several cultures simultaneously. What do I mean? It means for me; specifically, I am learning my own culture, the American Culture, Black Culture, and “Immigrant culture” all at the same time. Growing up, I realized that this aspect of the journey was interesting because I dealt with trying to understand identity as it relates to how I see myself, how my culture sees me, and how society sees me. As I got older, I learned that instead of others narrating my story, I would begin to voice who I am and let the world reconcile what they felt about me. With that, I came into a new understanding of what that meant for me, and it made me want to be more involved with not just educating people on who I am, but more on what I'm about from culture to advocacy to my Christian walk, and more. I have found several ways to connect with people, and in doing so, I've learned a lot along the way. There are similarities and differences that connect us, and I'm appreciative of those encounters and experiences with people because it assists in the development of my growth and evolving into a better version of me. From chemistry and environmental toxicology to cultural dancing, sports to poetry, fashion to serving in the kingdom of God, these are parts of me that I have learned and still learning about myself and others are learning about me. My career and journey have taken several monumental shifts that not only expanded my own capabilities but have given me the room to evolve. I have been afforded the opportunity to work in the private, academic, and now the public sector, and it's been a rewarding experience thus far. I've always been a person who likes to connect the dots from technical-scientific research methods to the broad scope or the “bigger picture.” My career has allowed me to transfer my scientific background into community advocacy and cultural spaces where I could also make an impact both at the micro and macro level. When I think about it, I actually can attribute this to my parents because they, too, have a science and health background yet are still very much involved in their community.Over the years, I have found ways to leverage my relationships and network by finding a common thread that connects us in one way or form. This is what led me to become not only a Science Professional and Public Servant, but to also be Cultural Influencer and Community Advocate. I realized I didn't have to sacrifice one title for the other, but rather all of these titles are who I am, and it's how I connect with others. For the longest people have coined me as “The Connector,” and I take honor in the nickname.
I love that I can take concepts, ideas, systems, etc. and relate as well as integrate them into a vast network that unites individuals with various interests. I have a responsibility in these respective positions to learn, connect, educate, and inform my network and community in ways that empower, impact, and change lives even in the minutest form. Once I realized this, I decided to connect my scientific background with this passion for advocacy in my community and got involved with organizations ranging from the International Code Council to The Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals, and as of recent, the National Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas. In addition, I wanted to take it a step further and do more with my voice to connect and promote the great working being done by young professionals in the Diaspora.
The opportunity presented itself during a unique time in my life where I was given a platform to be one of the voices in my community as a Television Personality on Afrocentrik TV, formerly known as Vineyard Television. I managed to balance a full-time job while hosting/co-hosting and producing 2 T.V. shows, It's Our Time Talk Show and Fresh Perspective Talk Show. It's Our Time Talk Show specifically highlights young professionals in the African Diaspora. The show aims to educate and empower the community while promoting culture and making an impact through the voice of young professionals. Fresh Perspective is a talk show that curates conversations centered on providing different perspectives of the Diaspora community. The show's intent is to bridge the gap in the Diaspora by understanding cultural differences and similarities within the Diaspora community. Fresh Perspective strives to be a voice that unites the Diaspora through policy, history, education, resources, and more.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at several national youth conferences (Mi La Familia + O.C.A. Youth Advocacy Summit, I.N.S.P.O. X WISH Youth Leadership Conference, & Nigerian American Multicultural Council Career Discovery for Youth) discussing advocacy and career preparation as well as be a panelist of various town hall meetings (Houston African Alliance Network Protest to Policy & National Action Network & Black Lives Matter Conversation on Race – The Nigerian American Experience) deliberating on ways that our various communities especially the immigrant community can be more engaged civically in our communities.
Who are your role models?
When my parents immigrated to the United States, it was solely for studying abroad on scholarship, with the intent of returning “home” to become the influencers, movers, and shakers back home. For some in my parent's generation, they made it back home and did just that while others didn't get quite a breakthrough as they expected due to economic reasons, change in-country leadership, etc. My parents are one of the many that stayed abroad and raised a family, made their mark here in the U.S., and were part of a growing community that had shared experiences. I always admire the immigrant community not because my parents are immigrants, but because of the will, determination, and boldness to leave their home country, start from scratch, and by any means necessary find a way to make it in a foreign country where there are several obstacles they encounter daily.
I look at my parents and see the successes, failures, dreams, and realities in their eyes, in their words, and in their mannerisms. It is that same fire that sparked me as a child and made me curious as to raise the questions of what their initial aspirations and desires were. Both of my parents are well educated as most immigrant Nigerians are, and they instilled in me the importance of pursuing higher education. They are the ones that recognized my passion for solving problems, and because of that, I pursued a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry as a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Scholar and United Health Scholar/Pacific Care Scholar. I assisted in research studies that ranged from nanoscience and cardiovascular medical research to environmental science and were funded and/or supported by the Air For Research Laboratory, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Fellowship, and Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute just to name a few. I further decided to pursue a Master of Science in Environmental Toxicology, where I did unprecedented research with metalized carbon nanotubes and its effect on osteoblast cells funded by the United Negro College Fund Special Programs N.A.S.A. Science & Technology Institute. My parents are my role models alongside other people whose stories have inspired me from Michelle Obama to Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Issa Rae, but most importantly, my family and friends are truly the inspiration for me.
What inspires you?
I never envisioned that this is where I would be in my life right now, but I am thankful for the journey so far, and I am excited about what is ahead of me. I've always been a person that believes that you can have more than one career simultaneously. Don't limit yourself or put yourself in a box, because God fashioned you in such a way that He placed various gifts and talents inside of you waiting to be birthed by you! It has not always been a smooth road as a first-gen Nigerian-American, because you realize that a lot of the cultures you've grown to learn are only bits and pieces of what you experience and what's been handed down to you from your parents. In America, we are not only seen through color but through culture, ethnic groups, tribes, class, etc. all within the same classification for being “Black” or “African-American.” At home, you learn your culture from your parents, and at school, you learn the “American culture” and its subset “Black Culture.” As a first-gen, you don't quite fit in as a Nigerian or as African-American per se. Not only are there cultural differences, but you find yourself sometimes teaching your own parents a few things you learned while in school or through interactions with friends and vice versa. What I do know is that as first-gens, we are currently writing our own history and making historic moves that America has only tasted, and there's more to come. From the struggles of making it on their own to seeing their children become notable professionals, making impact and change is one of the joys I see on my parent's faces. Knowing that they're able to see the harvest of a seed they planted over 30+ years ago when they first step foot into this country of the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” is both overwhelming and fulfilling. Many people struggle with identity, especially in America, because of simplistic ways to classify people. However, it is definitely a battle that can be overcome.
You make your own decision on how you want to be classified and take control of your own story and narrative, which is what I have done. I decided that I didn't have to just have a one-track career, but I can do what I love and what I am passionate about at the same time as many others have. Of course, many didn't understand the moves I made or the journey I took, but I realized that I have to live this life for me performing the God-intended assignment for which doesn't require approval from people or in simple terms “walk in my divine purpose.” There were times where I questioned my journey, especially when you enter spaces where you might feel like you don't belong or you don't see many if anyone likes you. Sometimes I am the only African-American female in these spaces that are often dominated by my male counterparts. However, I took advantage of these circumstances and decided to turn them into learning experiences. This helped shape my leadership style, build relationships with people, and added to my self-confidence, knowing that I am qualified to not only be in the room but be at the table leading discussions and making decisions. Other times I questioned if I could balance my career with my community advocacy platform because both demanded a lot of time and effort to ensure quality outcomes, whether it be an advocacy panel discussion or attending various environmental training. I learned that in balancing, you have to prioritize and be intentional with your time. This where I began to have accountability partners that I shared my schedule with, as well as expressing my successes and struggles with. They empowered me when I doubted myself and helped me be accountable to the goals I wanted to achieve by pushing, reminding, and even criticizing me in loving ways that put me back on track. My experiences, challenges, and successes have led me to the person I am today, where I am always striving to be a voice that is “connecting the dots in our community.” My inspiration comes from knowing what God has instilled and placed inside of me that is unique to the assignment I am to carry out in this world. My inspiration comes from knowing that my grandmother's prayers were answered when God gifted me to my parents. Therefore, I have a responsibility to live purposefully, intentionally, and according to the Will of God for my life.
Which social media channels work best for promoting your work?
I love them all; however, I find LinkedIn to be very useful for networking. You can also connect with me via Instagram.