a colored girl’s love letter.

(i was gonna write a letter to tyler perry, but i’ve decided against it.  for now, anyway.)

so i’ve been thinking about tyler perry being at the helm of this major motion picture adaptation of for colored girls. and i’ve been reading the choreopoem itself over and over again.  and something i’ve come to realize as a result of this development is that when there’s an adaptation of an original work, lots of things get changed and moved around. i think the “pass” he gets is that he’s going to adapt the choreopoem. which means to me that we’re likely to get the storylines of the women, but with some serious redux. since TP’s subject matter almost exclusively involves heavily dysfunctional black women & men, we’re gonna get the essence of crystal and beau willie brown. we’re going to get the concept of the latent rapist bravado piece, but maybe never the idea that it is never the victim’s fault.
it would pain me incessantly to see this choreopoem turned into an episode of jerry springer with a dash of church music thrown in at the end.  it seems that lots of women i know feel the same way — it would be so tragic to see something we love so deeply turned into yet another reason to hear oleta adams’ “many rivers to cross” or mariah carey’s “fly like a bird” in the context of something that really reduces the black woman’s experience to its lowest common denominator.

so i’ve been thinking about that, too. what is this film adaptation going to look like? is it going to follow the same basic archetype as his other films/ plays (emotionally damaged black woman/ women finding redemption after much pain and strife… with a heavy dose of jesus h. christ for upliftment)? according to the ‘dream cast’ article from broadway.com (linked above), the narratives of the ladies will be incorporated into perry’s own script that leads them to ‘the colored girls center’. i, personally, see lots of his tried-and-true storytelling methods. i feel like that’s a really bad idea, given that most of the impact that for colored girls has (in my experience) comes from the very fact that it is a CHOREOPOEM. not a scripted play with a set and huge cast. not a scripted film with a plot. because linear storytelling, though it can be impactful, is not in tune with how most of us reach our epiphanized selves. at the end of the piece, is there not the mantra of “i found god in myself/ and i loved her/ i loved her fiercely”?  what about that? knowing that most of tyler perry’s viewership identifies as christian, are we going to discuss the divine feminine in this movie? i doubt it. so, i’m pissed.  i think it’s apparent from this piece written by stacia on postbourgie that the concern of colored girls fans is very real, and definitely not imagined or overblown.

an idea i’ve wanted to do ever since playing “lady in green” back in my freshman year of college is to do a series of colored girls readings.  it could be really simple. dinner, cocktails, the reading, then a discussion with notes and feedback forms and stuff.

i will do this. in philly, in nyc, in dc . . . where ever.

interested? email me. sechitatgmaildotcom with colored girls dinner party in the subject header.

thanks.

peace.

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more on food stuff.

i read the comment left by ‘the vegan’ yesterday. and i read it again and again. i was going to respond directly to the comment but felt another blog post brewing. it’s ranty. it’s emotionally charged, because this is my life — and the very real lives of other folks — that i’m talking about here. so, here goes.

i don’t know if i wasn’t clear enough in this post to begin with, but, thanks to lovinginthewaryears’ comment i’m reminded that i never said once in this entry that i am as anti cruelty as i possibly can be. i’ve been ruminating on anti-imperialist action in my life. as a woman of color, my body is considered territory more often than not (ppl trying to decide how/ when/ where i ought to reproduce, for instance). i see similarities btwn the colonization of brown bodies and the functions of industrial farms — not just on the reproductive tip. i don’t agree with unnecessary brutalization of any being. however, if an animal has to die because its flesh feeds me — and anyone else — i can’t say it’s not necessary. i believe that less torturous methods can and should be used in farms, but because agribusinesses are running things, it’s not as likely to happen in the states. it’s just not. the work needs to be done by ALL people who are concerned to change he face of farming here. the same ppl who approve and encourage these practices — for they can hardly be called animal husbandry — are likely the folks who approve & encourage GMO plant life being part of the foods we eat. given that corn, soy, and wheat are the most used grains — and also have the highest percentages of GMO specimens — wouldn’t it be safe to say that we can’t eat the grains either? what about the farms that spray their tomatoes w/ salmon cells to protect the tomatoes from cold temps, so that they’ll grow when said tomatoes are not even in season? maybe i’m rambling. but, i feel that the whole system functions the same way. the prison system, these jobs, the government — it’s all the same shit to me. same cycle. so, to that end, i suppose we’re all working on whichever facet vexes us the most. that still doesn’t give anyone the space to condemn anyone else for surviving the best way they can. and that has nothing to do with knowledge of what’s ‘better.’ if they can’t do it, does it matter? i’d like for someone to trade me my food allergies for their diet CHOICES — dripping in privilege as much as racism/ sexism/ classism/ ableism — and tell me i’m wrong for eating chicken. go to the ER with your mom at 3 in the morning because you don’t know why she has hives and can’t keep water down, and then find out that it’s because of soybeans, which are virtually everywhere, and tell me she’s wrong for eating what doesn’t make her seriously ill.  i cannot and will not be sorry for being  a meat eater. i cannot and will not limit my diet to impossibly expensive gluten- and soy-free flour choices so that i can make my own bread.  i will not subsist on beans and rice forever just because it’s a vegan dish. for WHAT? when people who look like me are dying just as immediately or as slowly from drug addiction, abuse, police brutality, and violence against one another? no. sorry. not gonna happen. the quality of life for underprivileged (or poor or lower class or whatever words we use to dehumanize the situation) people has as much to do with the food choices they make as the availability of quality food. at the end of the day, the suburbanites have just as shitty food choices when you really think about it.

at the end of the day i refuse to be sick for anyone. i don’t care how wrong it is or isn’t. i’m surviving the best way i can.

the hierarchy of food.

i used to be a vegetarian. or, i should say, a pescetarian. i didn’t eat birds, cows, lambs, sheep, deer, or pigs. i ate lots of vegetables, lots of meat substitutes, etc. i drank lots of water. i thought i was healthier than meat eaters to some extent, but i was largely a veggie because i was disgusted by the idea of consuming flesh. it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. i went back to meat, cuz i love chick-fil-a.
i never really thought much about it, until sometime in 2006 when i became a vegetarian more or less by default. i couldn’t afford meat. and i didn’t like to cook it, then eat it. so, i very rarely prepared meat at home — i’d have pre-cooked, or somewhat processed (lots of stuff from trader joe’s, maybe a cheesesteak from a local spot) meat items. but one day, i started getting really sick. i was diagnosed with IBS and though there’s no real treatment for it, i did what i could to lessen its symptoms and impact. less stress, etc. but it got worse, especially when i finally returned to ‘regular’ food.

about 6 months after my first visits to the GI doctor, it really started to click: i ate a handful of pretzels. i was sick for two days and had hives on my arms. the pretzels contained wheat and soy. i assumed it was wheat, though i’d long ago suspected that soy was giving me lots of womb issues. so, bit by bit i had to eliminate things in my house. no more faux-meats (except for quorn products, which are often gluten free and soy free but not always vegan), no more bread, pasta, etc. i had to stop eating a lot of different prepared foods, as they almost always contained soy. soy lecithin, soybean oil, vegetable oil . . . the list goes on and on. i had to change how i ate. when i was broke, the cheapest things to eat were always pasta and baked tofu & veggies with some discounted tomatoes made into a sauce. i had to change that. i had to eat rice noodles. i had to use mushrooms, squash & zucchini when i prepared my ‘broke bitch’ food. i was cool with that. less food prep was involved, etc.  but the more i thought about it, the more frazzled i became.  why? because the things i could eat were very limited.  if i were hungry and on the go, i had to pray that i’d find something that didn’t involve eggs, soy, wheat, or dairy. because, of course, when you eat one fucked up thing there’s always another two or three or ten lurking behind. i am allergic to fish. i don’t eat eggs, because they make my stomach hurt (but i’ll eat something with egg as an ingredient, i.e. a gluten- and soy-free cake that has egg in it).  and so on.  i had to describe myself at one point as a vegan meat eater — that is, when i felt comfortable with my food restrictions enough to eat what i could, instead of what was available.  sometimes, the foods that i am most allergic to are the least expensive (see: ramen noodles — not that i ever ate them regularly — and lunchmeat & bread), depending on where i am (i live within walking distance of two supermarkets where i’m able to get what i need).  i wondered how this impacts folks who don’t have the same resources i do.  what if i come to a place in life where i no longer have those resources? and what’s caused these reactions? am i “lesser” for not choosing to be a locavore, vegetarian or vegan?

i don’t argue w/ the veggies/ vegans anymore on the animal cruelty tip. my reasoning is very simple. being who you are, in this country, in this place, in those clothes, etc. means you are dominating someone else on this planet. whether it’s a fellow citizen or a sweatshop worker, a child laborer, a kidnapped female sex worker, or war prisoner, you dominate with everything you do. if you desire to advocate for the lives of farm animals instead of human beings, i can’t stop you. but understand that it’s all connected. industrial farms are no different than puppy mills, no different than the factories that employ the people who make the nikes, et cetera. yes. i know this. but if you’ve never been allergic to fish, soy, eggs, milk, and wheat (possibly all gluten, including oatmeal), i don’t think you have room to talk shit about how someone chooses to get their protein. my sister, for instance, is allergic to mushrooms, tomatoes, soy, fish, eggs, dairy and onions, but can eat wheat.  tell her she needs to be a veggie, and she’ll laugh in your face. it’s her choice (as well as it is mine, and my mom’s, and anyone else’s) to get her protein from lean meats from locally raised animals, if from local farms at all. shit.   usually, people take care of themselves, the best way they know how and are able to.  we have to be equipped to do these things, right? 

** sort-of sidebar: animal cruelty is reflective of larger and deeply-rooted societal issues, in my opinion. how many ‘famous’ murderers first practiced on animals? how many people who are ill equipped to adequately deal with their own emotional shit pick on defenseless, smaller, or supposedly subordinate beings?  isn’t destructiveness of what can be broken down usually the result of a feeling of disenfranchisement elsewhere in one’s existence? wouldn’t that help to explain why dog fighting is so popular in working class communites and communities of color? **

so i’m saying, it’s taken me close to 12 hours to write this blog post.  and i don’t feel any closer to a conclusion.  i feel like choosing to be a vegetarian or vegan or locavore as a means of protesting big business farms/ food distro is a great idea. it is impactful when part of a bigger organizing.  i feel that by itself,  it falls short in some ways. no method is perfect. i also feel that it is classist, or at the very least excludes persons whose resources are severely limited. it is no secret that, in this country, the ‘healthier’ food options available to us are often more costly than the ‘regular’ food options. what do you do when you make “too much” for food stamps? what do you do when that $8 worth of antibiotic-free, free range, hormone-free, vegetarian-fed chicken is not enough for you alone to eat for more than two meals? i don’t know. i suppose it’s the same thing as understanding and implementing environmental justice instead of simply ‘going green’ in the hood.  you kinda have to see the bigger picture in order to even come close to knowing what your work is going to do.

and on another note, you can’t tell people how to live the best life for themselves without knowing intimately what their situation is. i’ll never forget the sideways look i got from someone for talking about how good bacon is. at one time, i didn’t eat pork or red meat because i was so thirsty for an identity i thought that super bohemian afro queen of the universe might suit me — and what better place to begin than with my food choices?  it failed. because i wasn’t coming from a place of my own understanding, but instead doing something that i thought would ally me with other folks.  i’m older, wiser, more traveled, and a lot more mellow.  i come back to the same thing i’ve said repeatedly to folks about my life: what’s right for you is not always — and sometimes never — right for another person.  we do not have the space to judge. we have the space to be ourselves, and live our best lives. and if we are truly concerned with that, picking on someone for eating meat (or not eating meat, or being homosexual, or being trans, or being a person with a disability, or WHATEVER) isn’t going to fucking matter.

erzulie.

(cross posted from my tumblr blog)

“Erzulie continues to articulate and embody a memory of slavery, intimacy, and revenge.”–Joan Dayan, “Erzulie: A Women’s History of Haiti” (2005) (via kismetfour)

working with this imagery of erzulie (either freda or dantor), i am inclined to take this quote as a reminder. no matter what happens, yeye will not be silenced or ignored. the premature celebration of some of philly’s residents around the potential disappearance of odunde is not gonna change much. the city’s lack of funds (screw what that article says, they didn’t give the st. patty’s day or mummers’ day parades this much of a hassle) does not mean there will be an erasure of the traditions of black folks. it’s not just about fried fish sandwiches, earrings & performances. odunde started as a procession to the schuylkill river to venerate orisha oshun. to say “modupe-o, yeye” (thank you, sweet mother) & make ebo (sacrifice or offering) to her, followed by a chance to fellowship. for brown faces to join in a setting that was not about a funeral, a trial, or a wedding. & the very second there’s something reminding some folks about where we come from & who we are, there’s a problem.

well, that’s too fucking bad. we may migrate to new neighborhoods & let y’all pretty things up — that’s fine. that’s a blessing to all involved, as each city needs is revenue. but there will be no erasing us. some of us are generations deep in this city.

oshun is the source. she is honey, she is beauty, she is creativity, she is the honey bee, she is the one who sprouts honey, she is the one with ears to hear. oshun is love. there is no stopping the river.

mbe mbe ma yeye (exist, exist always mother)
mbe mbe l’oro (exist, exist always in our tradition)

oshun isn’t going anywhere. we aren’t going anywhere. things may shift and change, but when we leave something behind it’s to get to something better, bigger & greater. this is something the colonizers never understood, something i daresay is still part of modern western consciousness: destroying something in the physical world very rarely means that there’s an end to it in the other realm.

spirit is not to be played with.

in defense of sex workers

(apologizing in advance for the rambly nature of this post. it’s taken me weeks to finish it.)

i am privileged. i come from a middle class background, both my parents are college educated, i went to prep school, and i attended a liberal arts college. i am privileged. i grew up with access to healthcare, to many resources in my neighborhood and in my city at large, and access to the information that can be used to improve just about any situation i’ve entered. the golden standard of my life has been one influenced by steady employment, education (self or institutional), and class-based values.  i have never taken a pay cut or been in a situation where i had no choice but to claw my way to the top. i’ve always been “employable” in situations that would improve my financial standing.  and, within my privileged status i have had the opportunity to do something that folks a the bottom of the capitalist ladder do not do: i have chosen to reject many facets of (if not all of) this privilege in the name of satisfying myself first.

my privilege, my access, my black bourgeois status means i have not yet in my life faced a situation where i had no choice but to work illegally to take care of myself.  i have never been a dope girl in that conventional sense; my existence has never hinged on the distribution of any package.  i have never robbed folks, participated in identity theft or other fraud, and i have not ever become a sex worker to support myself.  this is because often, choice is directly linked to access. it’s linked to privilege.

within my very strong interest in human sexuality, i have always considered sex workers in my conversations and thoughts.  sex workers are prostitutes, sex workers are porn stars, sex workers are phone sex operators and everyone in between. many (if not most) sex workers live lives devoid of fortune, fame, and glamour. instead, this is about the commodity of their bodies’ abilities to perform — not unlike those of us who work in settings viewed as “legitimate” by the larger society — and the profitability of their skill sets as well as the rate at which they produce.  this is about making money.  do not get it confused.

and though there’s a prevalent notion that anyone who does sex work is contributing to the decline of society as a whole (and that their morals are non-existent or “wrong”), i think it’s safe to say that a lot of folks know sex workers personally.  in my personal experience, stripping was a rite of passage for some friends. it was what you did to hustle up some money when there wasn’t any available.  lots of shake dancers are single moms; lots of women who turn tricks have mouths to feed. it’s a simple fact. and if nobody wants to hire you because you have kids (let’s face it, emergencies at school turn into hours lost at the plantation), or if you’re competing with dozens (even hundreds) of people with identical or better qualifications for the same job, your chances for hire are simply not that good.  everyone’s taking applications & resumes, but ain’t nobody hirin’. we all know that.  the present economic climate is beyond volatile; brown folks and women are feeling the pinch most of all.

i said all that to say that most ppl who know the life do not actually aspire to the life.  it is dangerous.  it is a source of shame. but it’s money. fast, usually, getting paid the same day you work (perfect for those emergencies, like food!), and almost a guarantee that you will spend less money on child care because the hours are shorter than day jobs or retail gigs.  it makes sense if you have an immediate need, it makes sense if you’re trying to stack a lot of money in a short period of time, & it makes sense to be a sex worker (namely a stripper or prostitute) when you cannot find a “legit” job that will pay you what you need. 

i have quite a few girlfriends who’re trade school grads, high school grads with some college under their belts,  and  college grads who’ve been sex workers. we live in a world where money is what you need, almost always, to get what you want/ need.  anyone who says they’d clean toilets for a living before being a sex worker probably doesn’t know that cleaning toilets for a living tends to have a 30 day (or more) turnaround period from inquiry to hire.  again: immediate needs tend to trump the “legitimacy” of a job.  this, to me, means that most of the folks talking shit about what’s wrong about sex work in regard to morality have no idea what it is to be that close to nothing.  this is beyond hand to mouth, beyond two checks away from poverty; this is poverty.  stepping away from privilege creates a whole other consciousness around what poor is, what poverty is, and what might be required of a parent (or of a family) to even begin to make ends meet.  i daresay that when some poor folks indict the character of sex workers it’s the result of internalized classism combined with the comfort of being able to point a disapproving finger at someone.  

the choices we make about the jobs we accept are framed by privilege, including the kind of work we do. my forays into sex work have been limited to working as a pro domme & subject of foot worship. i am not a prostitute.  i am not a shake dancer. i am not an escort. i am a pro domme.  i had the opportunity to research this type of sex work before deciding to participate. i have access to resources that have enabled me to decide the kinds of domme work i’m going to do, to advertise myself in arenas that maintain my anonymity & privacy, to do all of these things that give me a certain level of protection not afforded to women or men who walk the street or dance.  i am able to shut my business down or take it to another level whenever i’d like. i have more control over the whole situation because i’m informed enough and can create safety measures for myself. there’s time and space for me to create the situation i desire. though my privilege does not guarantee my safety i know that i at least have a buffer between myself and danger.  there’s something like a respectability factor that, if i got “busted” by someone’s wife, i could always throw prostitutes and strippers under the bus.  “at least i’m not fucking your husband, lady. i’m a domme, not a whore.” 

if i were selling my ass on the street, it’d likely be a different story. whether i had a pimp or not, i’d be in immediate danger of being subjected to attacks by citizens and police alike.  if i were dancing, i’d be subject to all manner of abuses both inside of the club and out.  as a matter of fact, as i type these last sentences there is very likely someone on the loose in philly poisioning girls who dance, either with drinks or drugs. (more on that later)

i could very easily, with a few changes to my life story, be one of these women.  the women we blame for being sex workers when they are assaulted or killed.  the women  whose lives we assess with two or three words because it’s convenient for us to do so (whore. dirty slut. home wrecker. trash. good-for-nothing).   with a few modifications to my background — or even my present situation — i could be the conspicuously invisible or missing family member who died mysteriously but has nobody to speak up for her.

& maybe that’s my whole point. there’s misrepresentation and misunderstanding around sex work.  regardless of whether you domme, you’re a porn star, you dance, or you escort, there’s an automatic marginalization.  the idea is that you are lesser than, you don’t deserve to walk with dignity or hold your head up high — especially if your station in life is not “honorable.”  but, in this structure, there is not built-in honor for all. there is no common knowledge that reminds folks of the idea that none of us deserves to be degraded or downtrodden by virtue of who we are. we do not earn or deserve suffering or mistreatment because of what we do to make money any more than by simply being who we are.

dear young strappin’:

it’s over. it’s been over. i liked you, a lot, for a long time. you are tall, dark, handsome, you have a strong back & you’re pretty damn smart.  we had some good times, you know?  late night pancakes, the time you lifted me over your head, the time you drove from new england in the rain just to see me for my birthday . . . & the sex was great. it was. i really enjoyed you.  you seemed to really enjoy me.  you were the perfect casual sex partner. conversation was good enough. you weren’t old enough to drink legally when we me but initially, that gap in age really didn’t mean a whole lot to me. because i wanted some no-strings-attached fun.  you provided that.  i was so grateful, especially that night you came out in a snowstorm just to look at me . . .

but then you got comfortable. i’m not saying i didn’t get comfortable as well, but damn.  you knew i had a kind heart & a soft spot for broke college kids & their elderly grannies. so, i let some shit slide that i wouldn’t have. it was the usual: i allowed my understanding of your situation become an excuse for allowing dumb shit. that’s not okay under any circumstances.  it implied that you were not responsible, on some level, for yourself.  you needed gloves and a hat for late season football practice and i broke my neck to get them to you. you still have them 5 years later (presumably a testament to how appreciative you were and most likely still are, no doubt), but the first time sets the precedent.   cuz my dumb ass shoved $50 in one of the gloves as a show of kindness, affection, and “you know this pussy will be waiting for you when you come home” type feelings. oh, how foolish i was! because you were gonna come get it anyway — the culture shock of all those beckies in one place was too much for you that first semester. you had to get used to your surroundings before attempting to fall off in the sorority houses, etc. & you didn’t like me nearly as much as you were fascinated and intrigued by me. the feeling was mutual, as much as we both sought to hide it.

and i carried a torch of sorts. you were that bridge between the rapper and whatever was next. i said good night to him & met you not even 5 minutes later. you served a purpose and represented something. i don’t resent or regret one moment of the time we spent together. i really did enjoy it for what it was. but things started to shift.  there was the time you took a call from another woman in my presence and told her the same shit you always used to tell me: you were hanging w/ your boys.  that didn’t sit well with me. because you were fucking me, but sleeping in her house. you were lying to both of us in some way. & since i’d taken the time to make our interactions about forthrightness (as much as possible), i was insulted. you asked me not to take that shit personally, but it’s kinda hard when you’re fucking someone and they’re complicating a relatively simple situation with half-truths.   but i stuck it out, cuz i figured you were young & didn’t know any better.  i presumed that you really didn’t know how to articulate your needs in a way that was comfortable for you. & though that was probably the case, i had no idea.  i tried to anticipate you. i tried to meet you three-fourths of the way because it made me feel like i was doing the right thing.  oh, young strappin’, what a fool i was.

when i moved to my new apartment in north philly, you had my back! you helped me move some stuff in.  you helped me hang curtains.  you fucked me on my new bed & scared the living shit out of my then-roommate’s piece of trash boyfriend. i appreciated you even more.  we were still functioning in that same fuck buddy space, but there was a new element. you could easily use my space as an overnight crash spot. i was okay with that. you distracted me from my situation with someone whom i’d met in the interim. you were competition for the dope boy over on jefferson street.  you gave me status, so to speak, when i was still learning that another person’s attraction to/ desire for me had nothing to do with the number of admirers i had.  oh, young strappin’, the things i’ve learned!

by the time i was settled into my routine and apartment in west philly, some things had changed. i was studying the yoruba tradition almost exclusively and contemplating taking the steps toward initiation.  i had cut my locks and gotten a tattoo.  i was beginning to explore my craftiness, my activism, and my sexuality in new ways.  i had new friends, i was finding community, and loving myself more.  that evolution marked the beginning of the end of our thing, this long & somewhat drawn out series of encounters that really should have been meeting over coffee or a random phone convo. but, when folks genitals are involved, it’s not always like that.

now, it’s been five years. we’ve both had some major changes in our lives. tats, piercings, haircuts, passing fancies, deaths in the family, graduations, trips abroad, championships . . . if i’d had to guess, i never would have imagined my relationship to you would be impactful.  i never would have thought that you’d be the only person i’d fucked in this bed. in this third, bigger, more expensive apartment.  & i would have never, ever, ever imagined that we wouldn’t be at least friendly any longer. i don’t know how that even happened. our last encounter wasn’t even good. i was in a new headspace then.  it was one of self affirmation, of self love, of making sure i was getting what i needed/ wanted out of every situation i entered.  & you couldn’t give me what i needed. it just wasn’t the right situation for me anymore.  & it still is not.  your stresses about the health & well being of your grandmother and younger siblings had you distracted. you really needed someone who was more open to soothing you. that wasn’t me at that point. & it quite possibly isn’t me now. i’m sorry we couldn’t do more for each other, yet thankful that it was what it was. 

so, i’ll keep your number and you’ll keep mine.  maybe we’ll cross paths somewhere in the city.  maybe i’ll reactivate my facebook account and send you a message one day, and we can do drinks or pancakes. we can catch up. you can show me your girlfriend or wife, your kids, your goddaughter . . . whatever. but, for right now i’m not answering any late night text messages. nobody wants to just say hi to me at 1:34 in the morning.  i’m not wasting my time responding to anything that isn’t an emergency.  so, i pray you’re safe. i hope you’ve found your dream job.  i wish you nothing but the best & brightest.  heaven knows you deserve it. you should be blessed infitely for your hard work. love & happiness are your birthright.

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