Politics and Culture

Episode 52: Racism Against Asians During Covid-19 with Michelle Meow

Michelle Meow, well known radio and TV host on LGBTQ+ and other issues, joins me on Everyday Conversation on Race, to talks racism against Asians during Covid-19. Michelle shares her background as the daughter of Laotian immigrants in Stockton, California and her experiences with racism. She offers her perspective on the increase of physical and verbal attacks against Asians, as well as how to stop them.

Key points from Michelle Meow:

  • In order to understand the recent racist attacks against Asian people we have to talk about race and racism in general as a historical and systemic issua around mostly southeast Asians. The median income for families is $35,000. When her father died and her mother was left with five kids to raise, they moved into the projects and she became friends with more Black and Latino people.e
  • We have to talk about race and racism on a systemic level and how it impacts all of us
  • Everyone has bias and those biases are more acute during crises. Michelle is always checking her own biases.

Her Background

She grew up very poor in Stockton, California

Views on the Covid-19 pandemic and racism

  • This pandemic is scary and people need to stay healthy
  • People are looking for other people to blame. The president has empowered people who are in extreme fear to blame Asian people for Coved- 19. As a result, elderly Asian people have gotten beaten up, yelled at, spit on and stabbed.
  • Asian people are scared about the virus and also scared about being targeted by racists and people who have bought into what Trump has been saying in the media. It’s very painful for her to know that now Asian people have to be scared of getting beaten up by people who are also scared.
  • If people did their homework, they would understand more about Covid-19, how it all began, the fact that the US was warned about Covid-19 and did not prepare. Instead of taking responsibility many people in the US government who should have been preparing us are blaming China and Chinese people.
  • Scientists and doctors have talked about it for a long time and begged the world to pay attention
  • With all the messages and racist beliefs being spouted from the White House and allies, there are concerns amongst Asians about bias and getting the right care if they do get sick.
  • Even in other Asian countries there is discrimination and stereotyping of Chinese people. There have been incidents in Thailand of restaurants refusing to serve Chinese people.
  • There are also incidents of Chinese restaurants in China refusing to serve Black people

What we need to do

  • We should focus on how to keep humans healthy
  • Understand racism and how racism is being used as a distraction to not look at government responsibility
  • Covid-19 is a global pandemic and will take a global solution
  • We are the wealthiest country with the most resources and are the most impacted. Most of us never thought this could happen in the US. Even that was racist, thinking it cou
    ld happen in China or countries of people of color but not here.
  • We have to pay attention to who is dying and that it is mostly Black and Brown people who are losing their lives. They are the essential workers in the frontlines of the public.
  • Racism creates a barrier from people coming up with solutions.
  • There are more good people who don’t want to give power to racists and haters.
  • There are African-American and Asian leaders who have been reaching out to work together and stop racist attacks against any group.

What we can do as individuals

  • We can speak up and intervene if we see or hear racism against Asians
  • Offer to help shop for older Asian people who are afraid to get what they need
  • Educate ourselves about historical and structural racism. Educate other people and speak out against hate and fear of differences.

Contact information

www.MichelleMeow.com

https://www.commonwealthclub.org/michelle-meow-show

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ABOUT MICHELLE MEOW, Radio & TV talk show host 

In her own words:

I’ve always dreamed big. As a little peculiar kid who grew up in Stockton, CA, I had an imagination that was too big for my little brain. I fantasized about a lot of things but as young as I can remember, I fantasized about being loved and accepted. The first time I tried to make friends with kids around my neighborhood, I was told to go “back to my country.” Born here in California, I didn’t know what they meant until the fights in the neighborhood became violent. The hatred you face from childhood to adulthood is dangerous and damaging. I hope one day we can change this for all of us. Why can’t we learn to love and accept one another for our differences and our similarities? That is the journey or quest I am on and the reason behind the “Michelle Meow Show.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 50: Everyday Conversations on Race with Damona Hoffman

On this episode of Everyday Conversations on Race for Everyday People,  we talk about racism in Hollywood with  Damona Hoffman. Damona is a dating coach & media personality who starred in two A+E Networks’ TV series: #BlackLove and A Question of Love. She’s a contributor for The Washington Post, CNN Headline News (HLN), Match.com, BET.com, and more. Previously, Damona held creative executive & diversity positions at CBS, Paramount, and NBC Universal. Now, she hosts and produces two podcasts, I Make a Living (by FreshBooks) and Dates & Mates with Damona Hoffman.

Damona talks with me about what it was like growing up Black and Jewish with an African American mother and white Jewish father.

photo of Damona Hoffman, a Black, Jewish woman/ talks racism

Damona Hoffman, Black/Jewish/Biracial woman

Her first awareness and experience with direct racism and hate. was when she was 16 years old. “My friend took me to a party where I was the only Black person. A white guy holding a hockey stick kept pointing at people and asking them their name. When he pointed the stick at me, she said, “N……, Bitch that what we call all of you.”

She felt f threatened- scared, and shocked. When she jumped up and told her friend they had to go, the friend said she was over reacting.

For Damona Hoffman, this was the moment for her that every person of experiences when they know that things will never be the same.  And this is another reason why conversations on race are so crucial because too often, people who are not Black or not people of color do not understand how serious racism is.

Key learning

Those of us who are white need to understand that racism doesn’t go away on its own. If you’re in a situation where you hear a racist statement, see a racist action or witness a person of color being targeted, we have to speak up. We have to intervene. If we claim to be against racism or anti-racist, we need to back up our words with action. If we don’t, we are colluding, and if we say nothing, we are colluding. Silence equals consent. Do not leave it up to the person of color to have to be a lone voice. In those cases, you are either part of the solution you are the problem.

It might be dangerous for a person of color to say something

Damona was lucky she got out, but she wanted the friend to speak out and instead her friend made her feel more unsafe.

Being Black, Jewish, and bi-racial helps her connect with people on many levels. There are also times when she gets excluded.

Listen to the rest of the podcast to hear more from Damona Hoffman

 

  • When she feels included and when she thinks people look at her like she’s an enemy.
  • Issues of colorism in the Black community and how she worked through it
  • Thoughts on internalized racism and oppression
  • How she launched talent diversity programs at NBC and CBS
  • Experience and speaking out against microaggressions in Hollywood
  • About her starring role in “Black Love” on A&E

 

 

 

Episode 49: A Different Kind of Conversation on Race and Racism

 

In this conversation on race,  “Julian on the Radio” talks to me about his experiences and thoughts on race, diversity and being the child of Chinese immigrants. We talk Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the need to continuously build a diverse community.

Julian grew up in the Washington DC  area  amongst people from different cultures, races and ethnicities. His parents were originally from Shanghai and came to the US when they were young. Julian says that most people want to spend time with people who are most like them, but he has thrived by being around diversity of people from different races and cultures.

Although he wasn’t focused on race growing up there were times when he felt different from the other kids in high school. He wanted to be accepted but there times when he was left  out, and felt “less than.” There were times when he just wanted to “fit in,” and asks “doesn’t everyone?” As we go deeper, he talks about the seemingly subtle racism he dealt with, and maybe he was even mad at his family for being from China.  He’s gotten more comfortable with himself, and no longer feels that way. Racism is all around us and Julian talks about how he lives his life.

We continue to talk and the conversation on race gets more introspective.

Julian barely graduated from high school and went on to have a successful career in radio.

Key takeaways:

  • Travel outside the US to open perspectives
  • Julian appreciates being raised in a multi-cultural environment and can’t imagine only being around one culture.
  • No group is a monolith and we all have more than one culture
  • Julian on the Radio offers some advice for young people who are having a hard time accepting who they are, who may be different and feel excluded, and who hear negative messages about their groups
  • Befriend, pick people who will be your real friends
  • Look for people who will support you
  • Listen and absorb podcasts that talk about self-acceptance
  • Have good people around you

We want to show that not everyone from the same culture is the same. We all have multiple identities, that make up our co-cultures. Diversity helps us understand the world around us.

If you like the show and want to hear more conversations on race, go to www.raceconvo.com .  And if you want help us grow, please share it with at least one other person.

To join the race conversation and support Everyday Conversations on Race, go to  www.patreon/raceconvo

 

 

 

 

Episode 47 : A Conversation on Race, Health Care and HIV from the US to Africa with Maurice Graham

Maurice Graham joined me on Everyday Conversations on Race to talk about race, racism and health care.

In this episode we talk about health care inequities particularly in regard to access and information about HIV and AIDS. There are many people who think that we no longer need to provide care for people with HIV since in the United States it is considered a chronic disease and not a death sentence. Maurice shares what it was like in the 1980’s to see so many people dying very quickly, and what it’s like now.

As an African-American gay man. Maurice has seen how HIV and AIDS decimated so many communities of gay men and people of color.

He says, “I have a Global view of HIV with an American response in the people of color communities here in Oakland California and some African nations. I am using education, medical intervention and collaboration as tools, working through a non-profit organization founded by myself and other like-minded individuals, known as AID for AIDS/AFRICA (AFAA). AFAA has operated informally since 1998 and became a non-profit in 2001. I serve as the volunteer Executive Director and Program Coordinator. Managing a staff of volunteers, we have initiated major programs of collaboration with AIDS service organizations, government, faith-based, recovery and community organizations here and in Africa.”

An early activist, Maurice was one of the founders of the non-profit Aid for AIDS Africa. He frequently travels to Ghana and other parts of Africa to bring information, medical supplies and other necessities to help people dealing with issues of addiction and HIV. Maurice is spreading the message of love, addiction recovery and living well with HIV across Africa. He recounts stories about his travels and the difference he has helped make in people’s lives.
Here in the US he created a speakers bureau, Positively Speaking to go into schools to talk to young people about addiction and HIV.
Outspoken in the conversation and dialogue about race and racism, he believes in the importance of talking about race from a position of empowerment and action. His global work and perspective on social justice for over twenty-five years makes this an episode to listen to and share with others.

Maurice Graham
I have a Global view of HIV with an American response in the people of color communities here in Oakland California and some African nations. I am using education, medical intervention and collaboration as tools, working through a non-profit organization founded by myself and other like-minded individuals, known as AID for AIDS/AFRICA (AFAA). AFAA has operated informally since 1998 and became a non-profit in 2001. I serve as the volunteer Executive Director and Program Coordinator. Managing a staff of volunteers, we have initiated major programs of collaboration with AIDS service organizations, government, faith-based, recovery and community organizations here and in Africa. We are facilitating building a voice from the community perspective to affect positive change increasing the overall health and well-being of the entire community. Working locally and traveling to Africa yearly since 1997 a vision for advocacy and peer support has emerged. This vision has become the focus of my work as an educator and consultant in our local community

Maurice has been a part of two spiritual communities for the past thirty years; a twelve-step recovery program dealing with addiction, as well as an adherent of Science of the Mind, an inclusive new thought spiritual movement.
His involvement in both of these communities has helped shape his outlook on race and his practice of confronting racism with love and self-empowerment.
Maurice is a founder of the non-profit Aid for AIDS Africa which takes him to Ghana and other parts of Africa every year.
A mentor to people across the world, he is making a difference in helping people recovery from addiction and live whole lives with HIV.

Contact info:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/maurice-graham-6b30b025/

Read his article:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/treatment-beginning-addicts-west-africa-maurice-graham/

 

Episode 46 : Growing Up Brown in Australia, a Conversation on Race with Ben Stokes, founder of SocialTable

 

Ben Stokes joins me on “Everyday Conversations on Race,” to talk about his experience being a person of color adopted by a white family in Australia. He didn’t become aware of racism until his family moved from a small town to a larger city. That was when he would frequently encounter white people who would keep asking him where he was from and look at him in disbelief when the told them he was Australian. Despite having a strong Australian accent, he was often discounted as an Australian because of his brown skin.

After coming to the US, with so many people of color, the questions still persisted from white Americans who couldn’t believe that someone with brown skin could be from Australia.

Ben has lived and worked in the US for over four years. You’ll want to hear his story of how he was harassed by security agents as he re-entered the US from a trip abroad.

His story is unique and not uncommon. Despite his experiences, Ben is the founder of the start-up SocialTable.

SocialTable  brings people together across differences over great food, great conversation and the desire to connect and build community.

 

Biography

Ben is the CEO and Founder of SocialTable. His personal, academic and professional journey to date is impressive and colourful – to say the least! View Ben’s LinkedIn profile.

Born in Sri Lanka, Ben spent his early years in a rural orphanage before he was adopted by Australian parents who raised him in Tasmania. Ben started his Uni years as a Med student, studying Medicine and then a Masters of Tropical Medicine and Public Health. Along the way, he recalls encountering great mentorship by the then CEO of St Vincent’s Hospital. Funnily enough, Ben’s mentorship with the St Vincent’s Hospital CEO actually prompted his realisation that Med was not where he would be most happy. So Ben took some fairly drastic turns and completed a Law degree. The skilled communicator and leader’s story of becoming a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist (having worked on the success of several med-tech products in the US market, as well his own enterprise SocialTable, along with his building projects for his very own orphanage in Sri Lanka) is too long for me to document here but it is full of insights, intelligence and authenticity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben can be contacted through email: ben@socialtable.co or through his LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bpstokes/

Episode 44: Conversation on Race, Racism and Mental Health


Gerald Chambers, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Dr. Ronnie Siddique, Psychologist, address issues of mental health in different communities of color and race-related trauma.

Ronnie and Gerald talk about stigmas attached to getting treatment for mental health issues.

There are trust issues of the mental health and medical profession because of historical racist treatment by mental health professions.

Ronnie as a member of the South Asian community and Gerald from the African-American community say that too often they hear people say, “Suck it up. Deal with it yourself.”

Gerald says that in drug treatment research shows that the darker someone’s skin the more severe the diagnosis and the less likely to get effective treatment.

There has been a denial of racism as a factor in trauma and other mental health issues related to race and culture. Intake questionnaires need to include questions about race and cultural experiences.

Therapists need to be trained in cultural intelligent therapy and be able to understand how racism impacts people from early ages physically, mentally and emotionally.

While it’s crucial for therapists and the whole mental health profession to understand historical issues of race, oppression and trauma, the need for help is real. At the same time every mental health issue of a person of color is not necessarily due to racism.

Diversity and inclusion have to be part of the conversation and education of people in the mental health field.

Listen to this episode to hear Dr. Ronnie Siddique and Gerald Chambers break down  the challenges, issues and solutions to provide access to  mental health treatment for low income and people of color.

Bios:

Gerald Chambers
Gerald Chambers is a licensed marriage and family therapist who focuses on interpersonal conflict, domestic violence, substance abuse, and 12-Step recovery. He leads a 52-week domestic violence psycho-education group for court-mandated spousal batterers. and frequently speaks to lawyers, psychologists, social workers, as well as middle and elementary school children. Well known for his innovative strategies to reduce domestic violence, Gerald has been a guest speaker at the Boalt Hall School of Law, Golden Gate University, and various community-based organizations.

Contact info: Gerald B. Chambers, LMFT

510-761-6554

www.geraldchambers.com

View my blog

Dr. Ronnie Siddique

Dr. Siddique is a licensed clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist who works with clients of

all ages representing a broad range of concerns, from ADHD and learning difficulties to depression and anxiety. She is the founders and owner of Embolden Psychology, her practice, with three locations in the Washington DC area. She specializes in community mental health and advocacy, clinical work and assessment, and writing and blogging about mental health.

For the past 18 years, she has run a weekly community mental health clinic in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. She is a consultant for Doctors Without Borders, the Suhki Project, and the Pro Bono Counseling Project, in Washington, DC.

In the summer of 2020, her book about anxiety and young people, Fight/Flight/Flow, will be released.

Contact info: Ronnie Siddique, PhD
Embolden Psychology
Licensed Clinical Psychologist/Neuropsychologist
Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC

https://embolden.world

703-973-6534

https://www.facebook.com/Emboldenpsych/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/embolden_psych/

Episode 42: An Afro-Latina Conversation on Race

With social media buzzing about Gina Rodriguez, Cardi B, and what it means to be Black, African American and Latina this episode of Everyday Conversation on Race is timely.

If you’re interested in the topic, have an opinion or want to know more, you’ll love this conversation on race with Cessie and Mercedes.

Cessie Alfonso and Mercedes Martin join me to talk about cultural intersectionality and their own Afro-Latina identities. Spanning generations, geography and sexual orientation, they find that diversity, equity and inclusion are more relevant than ever today as more people identify become aware of their own intersections beyond race and ethnicity.

 

Topics in this episode include:

  • What it means to be Afro-Latina in the United States and accept their own cultural intersectionality
  • Afro-Latina identity is complicated and often misunderstood
  • Experiences of feeling not being accepted by either culture because it’s impossible to only “choose one” identity
  • Response to racism and rejection
  • Addressing the claims that someone can’t be Black if they speak Spanish
  • Why they can’t separate and only claim one culture since they are mixtures of all of their cultures
  • More Afro-Latinas, Afro-LatinX are speaking out about their experiences
  • Cessie’s response when people question whether she is Black or Latina, and why she’s speaking Spanish
  • How African slaves were brought to the Caribbean Islands even before slavery in the United States
  • The difference between race and ethnicity
  • Why conversations on race are important and how they are different today than in the 1950’s and 1960’s
  • Growing up in New York vs in the California suburbs as Afro-Latinas
  • The browning of America in US culture and how that will be reflected as more than Black and White but the multitude of identifications
  • How we create space for the multiplicity of backgrounds in our population now and in the future
  • Stereotypes and assumptions about Afro-Latina and Afro-LatinX
  • How to learn more and engage in conversations on race and ethnicity

 

Bios:

Mercedes Martin is a Cultural Accessory Designer, Entrepreneur, and Educator. She runs a successful African-Diaspora inspired brand called Tres Mercedes- designing embellished sunglasses, hats with African Fabrics, Ancestor candles, and statement piece earrings & rings. She self- identifies as a natural curl hair spiritual Black Woman, but if she gotta be more specific about ethnicity: Black and Afro-Cuban American. Born in California and raised in Oakland.

 

Part of the Millennial generation she has had her own small business, Tres Mercedes since 2010.

link: www.tresmercedes.com

Instagram: @TresMercedes

 

 

Cecilia “Cessie” Alfonso, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, is a nationally recognized expert in forensic social work, domestic violence and organizational development in the area of cultural competence and valuing diversity.  She is the founder and president of Alfonso Consultants, Inc. For the past 20 years, Alfonso Consultants, Inc. has provided social work and psychosocial assessments to the clients of civil and criminal attorneys throughout the United States, as well as internationally. As a mitigation specialist, she and her associates have conducted over 700 mitigation investigations since she began providing services.

Ms. Alfonso is a bilingual (Spanish speaking), bicultural (Afro-Puerto Rican-Cuban) social worker who has trained attorneys and professionals to appreciate and integrate into their practices and organizations the ethnic diversity and cultural aspects of their clients’ lives. She is also a nationally recognized domestic violence/battered woman’s expert who has appeared on national television and British Broadcasting Company (BBC) radio and is one of the few African Americans qualified as an expert in domestic violence in the State of New Jersey.  She has conducted training in domestic violence to professionals in the criminal justice system.

 

Ms. Alfonso has received the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association’s (NLADA) Life in the Balance Achievement Award for her pioneering work as a forensic social worker/mitigation specialist. In 2008 she was recognized by Governor Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey as a leading mitigation specialist who significantly contributed to the ultimate abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of New Jersey.

 

In 1987, Ms. Alfonso, along with her associate, Kathryn Bauer, wrote one of the first articles ever written that details how the social worker skill set can assist criminal attorneys in preparing and presenting the life history of their defendants facing the death penalty.  Ms. Alfonso has been qualified as an expert social worker and has testified in the penalty phase of capital cases in states such as Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Her expertise has contributed to criminal defense attorneys obtaining life sentences for their clients.

 

Ms. Alfonso’s ability to educate attorneys on how to engage and defend individuals who are different from themselves in terms of race, class, gender and/or sexual orientation has enabled attorneys to communicate to the jurors why they should give their clients life as opposed to death.

 

Cecilia ” Cessie” Alfonso has received the following awards:

 

Recognition Award, First President of National Association of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS), NASAMS 20th Anniversary Conference, March 2013

 

Life in the Balance Achievement Award – National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, March 2008

 

Recognition Award, presented by Governor Corzine of New Jersey – Leading mitigation specialist who significantly contributed to the ultimate abolition of the Death Penalty in the State of New Jersey, 2008

 

Mim George Award – National Association of Sentencing Advocates (founding member 1995), 2005

 

Outstanding Faculty Member in the Defender Institute Basic Trial Skills Program – New York State Defenders Association, June 2000

 

Contact info: cessiealf@aol.com

(518) 928-8199

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 41: Does Culture Fit Hiring Promote Racism?


This week on  Everyday Conversations on Race, Simma is joined by Barbara Williams Hardy, former head of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for a large tech firm, and LeRon Barton a well respected journalist and speaker on the experiences of being a Black man in America. The main theme is Culture Fit Hiring and it’s impact on diversity, equity and inclusion.

They offer their perspectives and answer the questions:

  • Does hiring for “culture fit” promote racism and discrimination?
  • Is it only the responsibility of white people to promote diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • What is the role of Black people and other people of color in culture change and inclusion?

Topics covered include:

  • Culture Fit hiring- friend or foe of diversity, equity and inclusion
  • How we’re all capable or making wrong assumptions
  • Breaking up status-quo hiring and with inclusion
  • Where to find Black computer engineers
  • Asking the right questions to determine whether a statement has racist intent or meaning, and opportunities to educate
  • What recruiters and leaders need to do ensure inclusive hiring, making people feel welcome across difference and supporting their success
  • LeRon, Barb and Simma share songs that represent thoughts about race, racism and bringing people together

Barb Williams Hardy and LeRon Barton

Barbara Williams Hardy is a visionary, innovator, connector, catalyst for change and global citizen of the world. She is an award-winning thought leader with a global mindset and is known as a “Go To” leader who develops high-level relationship alliances that foster inclusion, belonging, collaboration and commitment to align diversity strategies with business objectives to accelerate employee engagement, experience, innovation and organizational success.

Barb grows leaders. She is the former Global Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at NetApp, Leadership speaker and the creator of the Barb List, Principles for Achieving Success and Living an Amazing Life.

Barb’s mission is to unlock the untapped brilliance in all of us.


LeRon L. Barton is a writer from Kansas City, Mo that currently resides in San Francisco, Ca. He has been writing poetry, screenplays, and short stories since he was way young. LeRon’s essays have appeared in Salon, The Good Men Project, Eastbay Express, Those People, AlterNet, SF Bay view, Buzzfeed, Gorilla Convict, and Elephant Journal. His first book, “Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture” was released in Feb 2013. LeRon’s new book, “All We Really Need Is Love

Episode 40: How Black and Brown Communities Are Destroyed By the System of Mass Incarceration


Vincent Garrett joins Simma on Everyday Conversations on Race to talk about race, mass incarceration and creating a “prison to school pipeline.”

A former addict and incarcerated felon, Vince has been clean from drugs for over twenty years.  He shares his experience of being released from prison, finding a mentor, getting his BA from UC Berkeley and being part of Underground Scholars, a program for the formerly incarcerated.

We talk about race, racism and mass incarceration and the unequal way Black and Brown people and White people are sentenced for the same crimes.

Vincent and his whole family were caught up in the crack epidemic in Oakland. He saw people around him being arrested and sent to prison for a few rocks of crack, while white people and upper income people in the Oakland Hills using powdered cocaine were ignored by law enforcement.

He is now working towards a master’s degree and is the program outreach and retention specialist for Restoring Our Communities (ROC), at Laney College.

Vincent and ROC are working to advance the “Prison to School Pipeline,” to ensure that formerly incarcerated people get what they need excel in college and in life.

Additional topics are:

  • Racial disparities and inequality in our society today
  • Images of Black and other people of color in the media and how that contributes to mass incarceration
  • Internalizing racism from outside messages
  • Repairing the damage of mass incarceration and race
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