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As the co-founder and CEO of WIE (Women Inspiration, and Enterprise), Dee Poku has been supporting women reach their career ambitions by providing real-world learning by providing unique access to established business leaders and thought leaders. She also founded The Other Festival, which showcases female creators and makers.

Dee sat down to talk about her background and why words matter at our studios at WPIX in New York City.

“I think it’s really important for me to be here right now telling my story. When you move to a different country to become part of a different culture, people make assumptions about who you are, what you know, what you bring, what you can achieve.

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 08: Stella Bugbee, Dee Poku Spalding, Bobbi Brown and Rukmini Callimachi attend The Cut’s How I Get It Done presented by TUMI at Neuehouse on August 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for New York Magazine)

It’s actually something that happened to my father because he had big aspirations and big dreams, but there was this assumption because he was African that I don’t know, maybe he wasn’t smart enough or couldn’t make it all the way and he is a very intelligent man. He wanted to look after his family and build a better life for them than he had, and so he worked hard and made incredible contributions to the place he chose to go to and then we are the product of that and we are also giving of our talent and expertise and time.

We’re in a really tricky time, and I think we are in a time where the sort of the simplistic and really sort of cowardly way out of issues has been to sort blame on people who don’t look like us. I really do believe that words matter so profoundly. I mean I just think that words can really reduce people to one thing, to one small thing. So when you denigrate an entire race, an entire population, an entire culture, with one word, then you reduce them to that one thing and you sort of negate everything that they are about. And so we just really have to think about what we say and how we describe people.

The words “go back to where you came from” are just so deeply insulting they really cut deep. I think again it’s about negating the contribution that immigrants make when they become a part of a new community. So I think it’s really important for all immigrants to have the platform and the ability to tell their stories so that we can really sort of be that beacon of light for the people who are coming up behind us, who are sort of feeling boxed in, feeling alone, feeling alienated, that they can see someone out there who looks like them, whose had a similar path, that they can relate to and aspire to. I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t have achieved all that I have if I hadn’t had that support and ally.”