Colorlines

Anika Noni Rose on ‘A Raisin in the Sun’: ‘You Have to be Able to Trust’ on Stage

Anika Noni Rose on 'A Raisin in the Sun': 'You Have to be Able to Trust' on Stage

Anika Noni Rose, one of Broadway’s biggest names, caught up with NPR’s Michel Martin to talk about her revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” that’s earned five nominations for this weekend’s Tony Awards. She talked about the unique pressures associated with performing live on stage:

I think we are lucky to have a cast full of generous people who are there to tell the story and enjoy each other. And because of that, we are able to trust each other on stage. And I think that’s the most important thing that you should have in a stage show. You have to be able to trust each other because it’s live, because anything could happen, because we are the only safety nets that the other person has.

Last month, Rose sat down to talk with Kate Couric about the show’s recent success and stressed the fact that she and the rest of the cast, including Denzel Washington, are  having a blast. 

Rose won a Tony Award in 2006 for her role in “Caroline, or Change,” which focuses on the American Civil Rights movement. 

Watch Black Curator Sarah Lewis Explain How Art Can Change Society

Watch Black Curator Sarah Lewis Explain How Art Can Change Society Play

With all of the recent talk about Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx exhibit at Brooklyn’s Domino sugar factory, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the broader impact of art in society. Curator Sarah Lewis, author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. Here’s part of what she says: 

Frederick Douglas, during the Civil War, surprised his audience when he spoke about this idea. His idea was that it wouldn’t be combat that would get America to have a new vision of itself, but pictures…the thought pictures create in the mind are the way that we can kind of slip through the back door of our rational thought and see the world differently. I love that. His speech was called “Pictures and Progress” and he retitled it “Life Pictures.” When I came across this speech I thought, “this is why I do what I do.” How many movements have begun in the world when one person’s work — one song, one impactful aesthetic experience — shifted things entirely for a leader, for a group of people?

(New Black Man)

TAGS: Art video

Bruce Lee Biopic ‘Birth of a Dragon’ Has a Director

Bruce Lee Biopic 'Birth of a Dragon' Has a Director

George Nolfi, whose past credits include directing “The Adjustment Bureau,” has signed on to lead a new Bruce Lee biopic called “Birth of a Dragon.”

The project is inspired by the true story of Lee’s 1965 Oakland duel with kung fu master Wong Jack Man. The battle was a big part of what built up Lee’s reputation as one of the most popular martial artists in the world. The film has a pretty iffy storyline: It’s told from the perspective of a fictional young disciple named Steve Macklin who joins forces with Lee and Wong to battle a band of Chinatown gangsters.

The premise of this new film is questionable, according to Angry Asian Man:

Do we need another movie about the life of Bruce Lee? Sure. Why not? I’ll always have a soft spot for a little more Bruce hero worship. Though this one can barely be called a “biopic,” as it appears to be playing decidedly fast and loose with the details of Lee’s life — it wouldn’t be the first — particularly the part where two kung fu rivals team up to take down the evil Hong Kong Triads. Bruce Lee, crimefighter?

 

(Angry Asian Man)

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On ‘Orange is the New Black’ and Pregnancy in Prison

On 'Orange is the New Black' and Pregnancy in Prison

One of the more intriguing storylines of “Orange is the New Black” is Daya’s pregnancy. Lauren Kirchner at Pacific Standard sheds some light on the larger issue of giving birth behind bars:

This is a soapy plotline, on a fictional show, but it does hint at the complicated and harsh realities that women face when they become pregnant while incarcerated. And there are a lot of them; according to The Sentencing Project, one in 25 women in state prisons and one in 33 in federal prisons are pregnant when admitted to prison. As of 2010, there were approximately 200,000 women in prison and jail in the U.S. (PDF).

Read more over at Pacific Standard

THEESatisfaction: ‘We’re Proud to be an Option’

THEESatisfaction: 'We're Proud to be an Option' Play

Throughout June, I’ll be chatting with queer and trans artists of color about their work and their inspirations. Some are well known, others aren’t. But they’ve all got something to say about how the path toward liberation starts in the creative mind. 

When Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White don’t hear the kind of music that they like, they make it. Together, they form THEESatisfaction, a rap and funk duo that makes music inspired by black psychedelic sci-fi feminism.

But what, exactly, does that sound like? Sort of like one of their musical sheroes, Erykah Badu, whose body of work influenced the 2013 EP “THEESatisfaction Loves Erykah Badu.” Turns out she loves them right back; they occasionally perform together. 

It’s been a wild ride for the Washington State natives who met at the University of Washington and have been making music together since about 2006. Their debut full-length on Sub Pop Records, “awE naturalE” (posted below) dropped in 2012 and since then the duo’s been busy building fans and community across their country with the help of their Black Weirdo party, a gathering place for blissfully different social and cultural misfits.

I caught up with them over the phone to talk about the inspiration behind their music. 

When did you each start making music?

Catherine: As a group, as TheeSatisfaction, it was 2008. But even before that, we’d been making music since 2006 together. For me, personally, I’ve been writing songs since I was 9 or 10.

Stasia: I think that we were in search of hearing something that we didn’t hear. There were a lot of artists that we’re inspired by, but  we weren’t hearing any queer black female voices doing hip-hop and R&B music from our perspective.

What’s the hardest thing about your craft?

Catherine: The hardest thing for me is to stay on one song or one project. We’re constantly making music. I don’t know if that’s a problem, but it could be because we’re already onto the next project before the one we’re working on is even released.

Stasia: We have an abundance of stuff that we’re always working on, so it’s [a challenge] to pace ourselves and not try to put out everything all at once. It’s just really hard to hold onto all the music. [Laughs]

What makes you proud?

Catherine: I’m proud of my lineage, I’m proud of my people — whatever aspect they come in.  I’m proud of the ability to travel like we do. I think that’s really important. Having the opportunity to be openly queer women and being able to travel the world is really powerful to me. I’m proud that we can go to places like Australia. There are still a lot of places that are unsafe for us, but I’m proud of the folks that are open-minded enough to be like, “Yeah, these are black queer women that are rapping and singing and doing stuff I’ve never heard of.” They’re proud to have us and we’re proud to be there, proud to be an option.

Stasia: I love being able to go and connect with other queer black women. Everywhere we’ve been there’s been fam and people that support us. I’m very proud that we get the support that we do.

If you could meet a queer icon from the past, who would it be and why?

Catherine: I’ve been a really big fan of Bessie Smith for a long time. I would want to meet her because she was wild and seemed very adventurous. You can hear it in her singing and her song styling. I just think we would have a good time on the town and make some really interesting songs.

Stasia: I think it would be cool to kick it with both Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Their minds were incredible. I’d like to hear their words and their activism and their time in Europe and New York. It would be incredible. 

 

Pharrell Apologizes for Sporting a Native Headdress

Pharrell Apologizes for Sporting a Native Headdress

Pharell is known for making questionable decisions when it comes to headgear, but this time he’s gone too far. The musician sports a Native headdress on the cover of the latest edition of Elle UK.

For what it’s worth, Pharrell issued an apology this week through one of his representatives. “I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”
He also claims Native American ancestry, according to a 2010 profile in Oprah Magazine
The young man whose name is derivative of his father’s (Pharaoh) and who says he has Native American and Egyptian heritages, introduced a new generation to the condition by naming his third album Seeing Sounds. He’s open about his synaesthesia, raising public awareness and adding his glamour to the gift.
This isn’t his first forray into Native headgear. Back in 2010, he rocked a military helmet sporting three red, white and blue featuers on it.
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Still, Twitter is decidedly unhappy. So much so that the hashtag #NOThappy, a riff off of his blockbuster hit song, is gaining steam. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks About Why America’s Stuck in Segregation

Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks About Why America's Stuck in Segregation Play

Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke at the Schomberg Tuesday night in New York City with Farai Chideya, NYU’s Patrick Sharkey and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute about his epic case for reparations over at The Atlantic. The talk, which was livestreamed, is posted above and gets started at about the 42-minute mark.

Asians Have Not Become White, No Matter What Google’s Diversity Data Says

Asians Have Not Become White, No Matter What Google's Diversity Data Says

Google released its diversity data last week. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh argued in the Washington Post that despite the perception of Silicon Valley as a “white man’s world,” the fact that 30 percent of Google’s workforce is Asian shows that they’ve overcome “overwhelming odds” and proves the “essential fairness of the American capitalist system.” If that didn’t drive the point home, then the title of Volohh’s title did: How the Asians Became White.

And yes, “the Asians” is actually in the title, helping to drive home the fact that the argument is based on the idea of one monolithic Asian community.

Scot Nakagawa responded over at RaceFiles and took Volokh to task:

Talk about manipulative. Volokh’s long history of arguing that claims of racism in the U.S. are exaggerated to one aside, the last time I checked, most Asians don’t even identify as “Asian,” and instead identify by ethnicity, recognizing that the racial category “Asian,” as it is used by people like Volokh, lumps together ethnic groups that have very little in common in order to arrive at averages and medians that suggest we are heroes of a Horatio Alger-style myth of cross-racial mobility in America. In reality, not all Asians have made it, and even those of us who have done pretty well in the U.S. aren’t doing nearly as well as white people.

Nakagawa goes on to cite U.S. war refugees from countries like Cambodia and Vietnam who make up some of the poorest ethnic groups in the country, and then doubles down on the essential problem with the model minority myth: “Volokh dehumanizes Asians by turning us into a shield against racism in order to make what amount to racist arguments.” Read more at RaceFiles

Sam Greenlee’s Family Asks for Help With Memorial

Sam Greenlee's Family Asks for Help With Memorial

Sam Greenlee may be most remembered for penning the Black Power era classic “The Spook Who Sat by the Door.” But his family is asking for help to properly memorialize the writer and filmmaker, who passed away late last month at age 83.

The family has announced that a public memorial will be held on Friday, June 6 at Chicago’s DuSable Museum starting at 6:30pm. But they’re trying to raise $5,000 to help cover the costs of the service and help wrap up some of Greenlee’s unfinished work. Read more at their fundraising page

How Dr. Maya Angelou Earned Her Title

How Dr. Maya Angelou Earned Her Title

Dr. Maya Angelou was a lot of things: a literary heavyweight, a phenomenal woman, a former sex worker (and no, she wasn’t ashamed). She was also a doctor, a fact that Professor Britney Cooper reminds us of over at Salon this week after Mark Oppenheimer argued against what he called “title inflation” at New Republic and wrote that Angelou actually hadn’t earned her title. To that, Cooper responds with this:

Maya Angelou’s scores of honorary doctorates honor a life of work befitting the conferral of doctoral status, since doctorate signals the ultimate mastery of a field. And a master she undeniably was. But the title is also part of an attempt to signal via a title that Dr. Angelou is deserving of a certain level of respect and deference. That deference has never been automatically conferred to black women. It has always been contested ground.

As Cooper points out, there’s a sexist undertone to this conversation, too. Women, particularly black women who have more than mastered their fields, often have to fight harder to be recognized for their accomplishments than men. And the refusal of deference to black women goes back centuries. 

Read more over at Salon

TAGS: Maya Angelou

What Apple’s Acquisition of Beats Says About Black Cool

What Apple's Acquisition of Beats Says About Black Cool

While Apple is still riding high from the introduction of its new operating system at its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, its $3 billion acquisition of Beats by Dre is still causing shockwaves across the music and technology industries. So how do we make sense of it from a racial justice perspective? Kelsey McKinney caught up with former Colorlines editor Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation” to get some perspecitive.

Here’s Chang:

What we have now is marketing in which black cool reigns. So, if Lebron, and Dre, and Jay and Bey and everybody else say, “this is cool,” then that’s what white kids want as well, what Chicano kids want, what Native American kids want. That’s what all the kids want, and that’s what’s important today.

On the one hand, there’s obviously opportunities there for there to be cultural exchange. We can’t ignore that there’s something happening there that could be potentially positive. If you and I have no other way of connecting with each other than for the fact that we both have Beats by Dre headphones, and we both happen to be listening to Kendrick Lamar, then maybe there’s a connection that we’re having that could be potentially transformative of us both.

On the other hand, we also can’t ignore that just because you purchase something, doesn’t mean that a cultural exchange is happening. Just because I buy these headphones because all of these black artists are saying I should, doesn’t make me any more knowledgeable about black struggle or anti-blackness.

Read more over at Vox

Documentary in the Works for America’s First Muslim Frat

Documentary in the Works for America's First Muslim Frat

America’s first Muslim-American fraternity is hitting the big screen. Alif Laam Meem, also known as Alpha Lambda Mu or simply ALM, has ridden a wave of national media attention to since its founding in 2013. Now, filmmakers Dylan Hollingsworth and Wheeler Sparks are out to make a documentary that they say will “explore the Muslim American identity, as well as the challenges of living by faith in a secular society.”

The film is tentatively titled “Brotherhood: America’s Favorite Muslim Fraternity” and set to be released in 2015.

(Huffington Post)

Star Wars Fans, Get Ready: Lupita Nyong’o Cast in Episode VII

Star Wars Fans, Get Ready: Lupita Nyong'o Cast in Episode VII

Just in case you didn’t already love Lupita Nyong’o, she’s decided to join the cast of “Star Wars Episode VII.”

The new film is being directed by J.J. Abrams and is scheduled to be released December of 2015.

(Star Wars)

Yuri Kochiyama’s Activism ‘Sustained By People in the Movement’

Yuri Kochiyama's Activism 'Sustained By People in the Movement' Play

Pioneering Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama passed away on Sunday night. She was 93 years old. For some, she’s known as the woman who cradled Malcolm X as he lay dying on stage at the Audubon Ballroom in 1965 (“I just picked up his head and put it in my lap,” she recounted in a 2008 interview with Democracy Now! “I said, “Please, Malcolm! Please, Malcolm! Stay alive!”). But even that iconic image of her doesn’t do enough to capture the life she spent dedicated to social activism.

Kochiyama’s journey began with her family’s internment during World War II and wound its way through the Black Power and Black Arts Movements of the 1970s. She was instrumental in helping Japanese-Americans win reparations for their internment, and spent the last years of her life inspiring countless young activists.

“Most people make life; some people make history,” her biographer Diane Fujino told the San Francsico Chronicle in 2005 ahead of the release of “Yuri Kochiyama, Heartbeat of Struggle.” “Yuri organized her life around making history. I think of her as a very ordinary person, who’s done extraordinary things.”

She embodied the multiracial spirit of racial justice, and while there are plenty of tributes — like this song from Seattle-based hip-hop group Blue Scholars, or this heartfelt essay from Kochiyama’s granddaughter, Maya, or actress Sandra Oh’s performance of her speech on her internment — what’s most instructive is to listen to what she had to say about her own life. 

In 1996, Kochiyama sat down with Angela Davis to talk about activism. They picked the conversation up again 12 years later.  The documentary film, “Mountains That Take Wing” by C.A. Griffith & H.L.T. Quan, is long (more than 90 minutes) and not the best quality, but it documents how Kochiyama approached her life’s work. When asked by Davis what helped sustain her decades of activism, Kochiyama responded, “People in the movement sustain each other. It’s because their spirit is so contagious.”

Yes, Maya Angelou Was a Sex Worker

Yes, Maya Angelou Was a Sex Worker

Over at Tits and Sass, Peechington Marie wonders why Maya Angelou’s life as a sex worker in her younger years is such a closely guarded secret. The answer: respectability politics.

First, it’s important to note that Dr. Angelou wasn’t ashamed of her sex work. In fact, she said the following:

I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? - never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.” They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, “Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.” They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives. So I wrote the book Gather Together in My Name [about her past as a sex worker]

So why isn’t that part of the story that’s being told in the wake of her passing? Marie writes:

It comes to this: there is no way, in the minds of most people, to have worked as a prostitute and not be ashamed of it. Most people believe there is no way to have held this job (and it is a job), move onto other things, and not consider it a “seamy life” or “shameful secret.” To most people, there is no way a woman of Maya Angelou’s caliber could ever have performed as a sex worker. The idea just won’t gel for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. Maya Angelou: Poet Laureate, Pulitzer nominee, Tony Award winner, best selling author, poetess, winner of more than 50 honorary degrees, mother, sister, daughter, wife, National Medal of Arts winner, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, consummate and powerful woman, artist, and former sex worker. Yes, the woman you love, the woman we all love, the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou was a sex worker and she proved, in her life and her stories, that there’s nothing wrong with it.

Read more over at Tits and Sass.

Lupita Nyong’o Options Film Rights to ‘Americanah’

Lupita Nyong'o Options Film Rights to 'Americanah'

Get ready for your world to explode: Hollywood darling Lupita Nyong’o has just optioned the film rights to Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel “Americanah.”

The announcement isn’t a surprise. Earlier this year, Adichie hinted in an interview that Nyong’o loved the book and was interested in some sort of collaboration. “Lupita was a very early fan of Americanah,” Adichie told Arise Entertainment 360. “And so before she was sort of well-known in the way that she is now, she wrote me … the loveliest email, a very long and passionate email about Americanah.”

Now it’s official. Adichie confirmed the deal this week during an audience Q&A at Slylist Magazine’s book club event at the Waldorf in London.

“Americanah” tells the story of a Nigerian blogger who spends her young adulthood in the United States trying to navigate dating and race in America. It won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction and was shortlisted for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Jezebel via The Root

Pharrell Apparently Doesn’t Know That Men Can Be Feminists, Too

Pharrell Apparently Doesn't Know That Men Can Be Feminists, Too Play

Pitchfork recounts Pharrell’s awkward interview with BBC’s Channel 4 News, in which the singer stops short of calling himself a feminist:

“I’ve been asked if I’m a feminist. I don’t think it’s possible for me to be that. I’m a man. I mean… it makes sense up until a certain point, you know?”

To be fair, there’s been some controversey over men calling themselves feminists. But feminism is a movement to end sexist exploitation, not just a title. Feminist writer bell hooks wrote a whole book called “Feminism is for Everybody.” Worth a read. 

LeVar Burton Raises More Than $1.7 Million to Bring Back ‘Reading Rainbow’

LeVar Burton Raises More Than $1.7 Million to Bring Back 'Reading Rainbow' Play

LeVar Burton, the actor and longtime host of the beloved children’s edutainment show “Reading Rainbow,” is on a mission to bring the show back for new audiences. Burton has launched a Kickstarter campaign to take the show’s library online, and he’s raised more than $1.7 million (and counting) online in less than 24 hours. It’s incredible. And if that wasn’t enough, the campaign’s got an infographic that details the problem of childhood illiteracy in the U.S.:

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Laverne Cox Makes History on the Cover of TIME

Laverne Cox Makes History on the Cover of TIME

“Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox is on the cover of TIME, along with a cover story by Katie Steinmetz titled, “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.” The story itself is behind a paywall, but a video and interview are available for free online. Here’s an excerpt:

Where is America when it comes to the acceptance of trans people?

We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say ‘This is who I am.’ And more trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, ‘Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.’ When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference. Social media has been a huge part of it and the Internet has been a huge part of it, where we’re able to have a voice in a way that we haven’t been able to before. We’re being able to write our stories and we’re being able to talk back to the media … We are the reason. And we are setting the agenda in a different way.

Read more over at TIME. Janet Mock, author of the bestselling memoir “Redefining Realness”, wrote on Tumblr about how big of a deal this is for transgender communities. “Such a major media moment for a trans woman of color to be visible and vocal in this way, helping spark multiple conversations about identity, about the intersection of race, class, gender and so much more.”

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Mia McKenzie: Writing Feels Exceptional

Mia McKenzie: Writing Feels Exceptional

Throughout June, I’ll be chatting with queer and trans artists of color about their work and their inspirations. Some are well known, others aren’t. But they’ve all got something to say about how the path toward liberation starts in the creative mind. 

For Mia McKenzie, Black Girl Dangerous is both a political and a creative starting point. The website Mckenzie founded and leads as editor-in-chief is a collection of LGBT voices of color that go against the grain. They’re proudly fat, resiliently disabled and politically unbowed. And they’ve cultivated an online space for queer and trans folks of color to write, and exist, uncensored. 

McKenzie, as founder, is at the center of that space. But BGD, as she calls it, is just one of her creative outlets. The Philly-born Bay Area resident is also an award-winning fiction writer whose debut novel “The Summer We Got Free” won a 2013 Lambda Literary Award. Below, she talks about the centrality of writing in her life, and how she’s learned to manage her quirks to get things done.

When did you start writing fiction?

I can’t remember exactly when I started writing, but I definitely did it when I was a really little girl. I remember my sisters and I would make newspapers and we would write our own stories and articles. I would write little stories when I was in elementary school, and that was probably when I was about 7. And then, in sixth grade, I remember my teacher was very focused on writing stories and binding our own little books, and that’s when I got really, really into it.

What motivated you to start writing about queer communities?

I write about what’s interesting to me, what I love, what’s in my world and what’s in my life. I write because I love reading. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a movie star [laughs]. And then I got stage fright when I was 13 and decided that a solitary writing life was for me. I think it comes from a love of character and a love of language, and a particular love for the stories of queer black people. I just love those stories, I’m so interested in them and am so deeply moved by them.

When I was younger writing stories, I felt that I was good at it and felt exceptional. Who doesn’t want to feel exceptional? Writing gave me that and it still gives me that. Once I got to college and was introduced to more women of color writers, by women of color teachers, I was able to really begin finding my own voice. That allowed me to start telling stories that really came deeply from me and my experience and the experiences of my people.

What’s the hardest thing about your craft?

Fiction writing is really hard. Writing a novel was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Just the sheer amount of work was unbelievable. It’s hard for me to describe it, but it’s so much work. The writing itself isn’t hard—the words, the characters, the ideas come to me pretty easily. But for me it’s really a matter of being disciplined about time, and that’s the hardest part.

It’s a constant struggle for me. My little ADD brain is all over the place all the time. The thing I’m learning about myself over the years is, I’m accepting that about myself. I’m not a person who’s going to be able to make a plan far out and follow it. I embrace my last minuteness. I know it’s going to get done. The stories want to come, they want to be told.

What makes you proud?

I’m really proud of my books: my novel, “The Summer We Got Free” and my Black Girl Dangerous anthology. I feel like together those two books represent years of my writing and I look at them and I see my life in them, I see my soul in them, I see my heart in them. I’m proud that I’ve written boldly—I hope—about a radical, black, queer experience in a way that’s had such an impact.

If you could talk with a queer icon from the past, who would it be? And why?

That’s a really hard question because I feel like there are so many amazing people, but I’m going to choose a trans icon named Marsha P. Johnson because, wow. Just to be around that kind, lovely energy and to be around someone who had so much love in her heart and so much courage. But also to hear her stories and get details that nobody knows, to laugh, cry and commiserate with someone who I admire so much because of her vulnerability as well as her strength. She’s someone who blazed a trail for me and all queer and trans people of color, really. We’re all indebted to her, whether we know it or not. Stonewall was a riot, not a parade, and she was right there fighting on the frontlines. We owe everything to her as a trans woman of color who fought that fight. 

TAGS: LGBTQ Pride
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