One of the more peculiar inside jokes shared among those raised in “the hood”, meaning lower middle-class, working-class, and poor neighborhoods, occurs when someone has been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. It is at this moment that others affectionately relate that he/she is on his way to ‘college’; albeit, not to pursue a traditional Liberal Arts degree, rather, a B.A. in criminality or possibly a M.S. in robbery. All agree that the convicted will return from “college” a slicker confidence man or bolder burglar. Many of my peers chose such an educational path.

Fortunately, innumerable career paths and opportunities, including initiatives to save African-American males offer realistic alternatives to incarceration. The alluded to initiatives serve as a constant reminder of the national crisis facing African-American males. Personally, such initiatives facilitated a host of “firsts” for me: my first collegiate visit, my first academic conference, and a similar program — the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) — paved the way for graduate school. Such outreach programs made the mentorship I received from Dr. James N. Upton during my undergraduate tenure and Dr. Paulette Pierce as I pursued my initial Master’s degree at THE Ohio State University all the more important. The aforementioned mentorship was critical to my academic success as I learned how to “be” inside of: collegiate classrooms, academic conferences, workshops, and symposiums.

Consequently, my current station as a tenured professor is a bit surreal. I am now on the other side of the desk and charged with mentoring the next generation of African-Americans. Unfortunately, I am finding this process, particularly in regards to African-American males, increasingly difficult. Put simply, this latest generation of Black males does not appear to be particularly interested in academics, politics, or intellectual thought. In fact, I have watched as many of my current students have done their best to transform institutions of higher learning into an entity best termed ‘Thug University’.

The stages I lecture upon on a daily basis have provided a clear view of the drastically altered demeanor, preparation, goal structure and behavior of many African-American males. From my perspective, the driving force behind this transformation is a flawed understanding of Black manhood.

As previously mentioned, I participated in several initiatives aimed at saving ‘the endangered black male’. Such programs operated out of the belief that there was a desperate need to provide “historically marginalized minority populations” access to higher education. According to those fighting on our behalf, the most significant obstacle preventing our inclusion into said higher education institutions was institutional racism; meaning, that institutions of higher learning operated in a manner that individuals such as me, a first-generation collegian, would never gain access.
I am certain that those battling for our inclusion during the eighties considered their foe, institutional racism, unconquerable. They never imagined that a decade later a more menacing enemy would arrive; an enemy that makes institutional racism appear juvenile. The latest opponent in the battle to save African-American males is a ‘siren’ that has mesmerized Black males. This enemy is best termed Thug Culture, a lifestyle propagated and delivered to our young men by contemporary rap stars.

For a significant population of Black male collegians, rap icons such as Rick Ross, YG, and Young Jeezy hold more sway over their values, aspirations, and worldview than Du Bois, Baldwin, Hughes, King, X, Newton, or Obama could ever hope to. Mentors of today’s African-American males are in for a rude awakening if they believe that mere exposure to collegiate campuses is enough to repel the omnipresent, seemingly omnipotent, influence of today’s rap artists on the values and goal structures of African-American males.

Such an assertion pains me as Rap Music is dear to my heart. In fact, I was politicized by eighties Rap Music; my mind was significantly impacted by Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Boogie Down Productions Edutainment, Brand Nubian’s One for All, X-Clan’s To The East Blackwards, and Paris’ The Devil Made Me Do It. However, the youth culture I was steeped in was not only politically progressive, but also created by African-Americans to serve Black interests. Unfortunately, the days of yesteryear are long gone.

Things have turned so sour within some urban enclaves that African-Americans have begun to fear their own. The Notorious B.I.G. stated as much in his tour de force, Things Done Changed “Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us. Look at ‘em now, they even fucking scared of us.”

Why should previous generations of African-Americans not be concerned about this latest expression of manhood considering its proclivity for drug abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, profanity, immorality, and anti-social behavior? All characteristics, I might add, that are foreign to the way that persons of African descent have historically lived.

African-American male collegians who are in the throes of a nihilistic homo-erotic thug culture fail to realize that they are an aberration to historic manifestations of Black manhood. Their entire existence contradicts esteemed traditions of honorable, smooth, articulate, educated, well dressed brothers who occupied leadership positions in their public and private lives. Today, the smooth suave and debonair African-American man has been replaced by young men whose lack of style, and trust me style is not achieved by one foolishly purchasing overpriced gaudy European clothing, is rivaled only by their inability to articulate a coherent thought.
Surrounding African-American collegians desperation to be included in ‘thug culture’ is an often ignored query of ‘what is the payoff for relinquishing long-standing African-American cultural traditions in favor of niggardly behavior?’ Apparently the payoff for African-American male collegians is the opportunity to earn ‘street credibility’ among Common Street hoodlums whom they desperately seek to emulate.

If nothing else, I wish that the young men I view from the stage realize that they are the best that our Race has to offer and their allowing the “streets” to significantly influence their cultural values and goal structures makes as much sense as a tail wagging a dog. Young collegiate brothers you are supposed to be the head and not the tail in regards to setting the values, priorities, goals, and future direction of our community. Hence, you are now center stage, the spotlight is shining on you and we are eagerly awaiting to see if you will assume your rightful position as the next generation of educated “Race men” or will you prove cowardly and continue down a path of aberrant behavior that none of those who came before you would either recognize or celebrate.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

What Anne Frank teaches us about Black Minds

During my nearly two decades of working as an African-American Studies Professor, I have learned myriad lessons regarding the educational process and its impact upon the minds, imagination, aspirations, and psyche of Black people; one of the most obvious and far-reaching lessons is found in the unfortunate reality that African-Americans are bereft of any understanding of their history. Although many outside of our community will protest this fact, the unfortunate reality is that the typical African-American is better versed in the history of other races than his own; engagement in the K-16 American educational institutions and its curriculum ensure the continuation of this reality.

It is this reality that forces me to brace myself for the first day of the semester; I already know that it will be a day that a new class of students will invariably reveal both their ignorance of and non-desire to engage African-American History. Considering that I am currently employed at a Historically Black University, one would expect my students to be excited at the prospect of reading Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart or Alex Haley’s classic monograph, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Unfortunately, you would be disappointed as students express their resistance to both tomes via a groan of disapproval.

Students resistance to reading African-American literature often reaches absurd levels. For example, it is not unusual for a student to assume the persona of a modern-day Simon Cyrene, the figure who carried Jesus’ cross for him, who foolishly challenges my selection of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by relating that he refuses to read a book about a ‘Black Moslem’; a tactic that I guess he thinks will earn him a much needed crown when he reaches Heaven.

Considering that such antics are repeated every semester, I am prepared to address them via a simple question that illuminates the paucity of their prior educational experience, particularly as it deals with their exposure to African-American authors, history, and literature. The question I repeatedly pose is a relatively mundane one of, “How many of you have read The Diary of Anne Frank?” Invariably, every hand in the cavernous auditorium rises. I then ask the overwhelmingly Black audience; “Now which of these texts, The Diary of Anne Frank or The Autobiography of Malcolm X do you think is more applicable to your life? The story of a Jewish girl hiding in a closet or the one that follows the life of a Black man in America who to this day is revered by your people?” After such a flurry, nary a word of protest is uttered.

I take this momentary pause to re-engage the reincarnated Simon Cyrene, who invariably behaves as if my selection of The Autobiography of Malcolm X is part of a larger plan to proselytize and put my Christian audience on the highway to hell; I ask this idiot if he has read Anne Frank’s story. He always answers affirmatively. I then query, “So I am to take it that you are Jewish?” Driving home the absurdity of his protestation of why he would not engage Malcolm’s story, I then explain to the class that it is not Malcolm X’s religious background that he has a problem with, if it were, he would likewise have protested reading a text revolving around a Jewish girl; truthfully, the primary catalyst to my students resistance to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X is that they have learned to loathe African-Americans. Closely associated with feelings that can be best termed self-hatred is an often overlooked implicit question of ‘what have black people ever contributed to society?’ Although it is often not commented upon, it is possible for African-Americans to hate themselves with the zeal of a Ku Klux Klan member. In fact, the appearance of such bias is predictable considering that both populations have similar limited exposure to African-American historical contributions and contemporary worth.

I have learned that there are certain statements that must be forthrightly stated when discussing matters such as this, so I am publicly stating that I have no problem with students reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I personally consider her story to be significant enough to have visited the location where it was constructed. Hence, you will never find me refuting that Anne Frank’s story is an indispensable part of Human history; however, I am educated enough to recognize that such recognition is due to African-Americans stories, particularly The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as well.

The genesis to my being unsettled by this matter emanates from my understanding of education’s impact upon the human psyche. Considering that humans are social beings, meaning that we learn everything that we “know”, or at least think that we know, through either personal experience or the lessons of others, our entire reality is determined by what we are taught and what we experience. Hence, decisions regarding the type of curriculum we “educate” our children with should never be taken lightly. The alluded to curriculum informs our very existence.

Unfortunately, those who make decisions regarding K-12 curricular offerings are products of a school system that has historically marginalized the historical, cultural, and spiritual contributions of people of color; so it is not surprising that they continue this unfortunate tradition when crafting “educational guidelines” and “standardized tests”. If permitted, I would love to ask the decision makers that determine the worth of The Diary of Anne Frank and the worthlessness of The Autobiography of Malcolm X the following questions.

A.        What is your rationale for including The Diary of Anne Frank on the must read list and not The Autobiography of Malcolm X?

B.         Why do you think that Anne Frank’s story is more valuable than Malcolm X’s?

C.        What impact do you think that a K-16 educational experience that is devoid of any African- American books has upon the minds of students regardless of their racial identity or ethnic background?

D.        What does it mean for school children, regardless of race/ethnicity when districts fail to include any classic stories that center upon African-Americans or the African-American experience on their must read list?

The consequences of African-American children not being exposed to any form of their own history or culture in America’s educational institutions is well known, often omitted in such discussions is the reality that such grievous curricular omissions seriously damages the worldview of students of every race/ethnicity in the following ways.

A.        It allows for the development of woeful ignorance in regards to African- Americans and their historical experience.

B.         It gives the impression that persons of African descent have never contributed anything to society; thereby, allowing for racism and racist sentiments to gestate, if not spread like wildfire.

C.        It releases an “educated” populace into the world without even a limited understanding of the African-American experience, an occurrence that severely curtails any opportunity for a closing of the American racial divide.

Considering the repetitive nature of public proclamations that this nation is now in a “post-racial” period, it is extremely important that racial matters be re-examined; or we as a nation run the risk of burying a living and breathing entity that is still impacting us on a daily basis. If this nation is honestly seeking to address the seemingly never ending domestic racial animosity, the inclusion of classic African-American texts would go a long way toward healing the racial divide. Tomes such as the following should be read by every American, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation: Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) The Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Black Boy (Richard Wright), The Third Life of Grange Copeland (Alice Walker), The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Alex Haley), Some Soul to Keep (J. California Cooper), Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,) The Simple Stories (Langston Hughes), Up From Slavery (Booker T. Washington), The Souls of Black Folk (W.E.B. DuBois), Go Tell It On The Mountain or The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin).

It is imperative that school children of every hue be exposed to a wide array of historical texts and expressions of humanity. History dictates that an investment in education is one of the greatest investments any nation, including America, could ever make. So, if this nation is serious about addressing its well-documented pattern of racial animosity between groups it must significantly alter the intellectual diet that has been woefully deficient in regards to acknowledging racial issues. A significant step toward addressing the nation’s failure to deal with the ever-present Race issue would be to infuse the intellectual diet with texts from myriad races, groups, and perspectives. History dictates that the only weapon we have against ignorance is education. Considering such truth, it is long overdue for American children, including African-American children, to have access to classic African-American texts and authors, it is truly the only weapon that we have against racial animosity shadowing this nation through the new millennium.

Black America’s Civil War



In the great play, A Soldier’s Story, there is a character named C.J. who is a happy go lucky “homey kind of nigga” who white folk just love to have around due to his comedic nature and musical talents. C.J. has never met a stranger and seeks to ingratiate himself to all around, even to the point of embarrassing his African-American contemporaries. Another character, Sarge, hated C.J. and all that he represented because his antics were an embarrassments that reinforced the prevailing stereotypes that racist whites had for so long stereotyped African-Americans as being. During one of the more important aspects of the play, Sarge, reveals to C.J. that “the race can no longer afford you. The Day of the Geechee is over.” What Sarge was in effect saying, individuals such as C.J. set the race back tremendously as they went through their day and the Race could no longer afford such foolishness. The present state of African-Americans has placed educated African-Americans into a position that they are having to make similar commentary to a similar population of Black folk.

Due to Black America’s diversity, cultural priorities have always been a lightning rod issue. We hail from diverse areas that have significantly influenced our individual priorities, beliefs, and goals. Consequently, our best attempts to define “what Black is” have resulted in repeated failure; when will we learn that “Blackness” is indescribable.

However, the alluded to cultural diversity has fostered a fundamental disagreement within Black America of what is an appropriate way of expressing “Blackness”. Expressions of “Blackness” are so divisive that comedian Chris Rock equated it to Black America’s “Civil War”. Rock uttered the following to an adoring audience, “there is a ‘civil war’ occurring between Black folk and Niggers. And Niggers have got to go.”

Although droves of Black folk laughed at Chris Rock’s biting social commentary, the truth is that he was exposing Black-America’s dirtiest piece of laundry; that being, some Blacks inability to extricate themselves from a multi-faceted poverty that extends beyond finances and appears in political, social, educational, cultural, and moral areas. Most frustrating to educated African-Americans is that impoverished Blacks are unashamed of their multiple inadequacies and actually revel, promote, and champion their deficiencies.

Chris Rock’s routine pierced one particularly pernicious type of poverty when he remarked, “Nothing makes a nigga happier than to not know the answer to your question.” The aforementioned statement is sad, but nevertheless true; and serves as the source of much angst for educated African-Americans. Unfortunately, it appears that significant portions of the Black populace have decided to carry the issues that Chris Rock and others such as Bill Cosby took them to task for, as a badge of honor.

When African-Americans emerged from chattel slavery, they linked their oppression to a lack of education; a situation they hurriedly corrected. Such efforts to garner education were a guiding post for African-Americans throughout the majority of the twentieth-century. Many argue that the devaluing of education coincides with the integration of schools and the removal of African-American teachers from Black children’s lives.

However, it is difficult to identify a single villain in this process that has fostered, and today encourages, younger African-Americans repudiation of academic learning; a situation that has led to high achieving African-American children being branded as ‘acting white’. However, a great starting point to explain this devaluing of education within certain segments of the Africa-American community may be their adoption of a capitalistic “ends-justify-the-means” ethos that justifies any, and everything, as long as it is profitable. This message is continually piped into African-American homes via ‘Reality TV’ shows. Leading those absent an understanding of authentic Black culture to believe that such displays of anti-social behavior and antics are a representation of whom we are as a people.

A value system that glorifies materialism is the pivot that myriad African-American problems flow from. It is materialism that has also facilitated the denigration of intelligence within the Black America. Those who have adopted materialism wallow in an economic poverty that begets a lack of politicization, that begets, economic ignorance, that begets poverty, which starts the devilish process of securing money ‘by any means necessary’ all over again. Such realities manufacture a group of individuals willing to exchange their dignity for material goods. It is this population that Chris Rock terms Niggas. And on behalf of the African-American community, I feel comfortable in saying, it is time for you to go.

 Dr. James Thomas Jones III

The Game of Life

There is a popular axiom that states, ‘those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’ There is quite possibly no more succinct means of describing the current politico economic state of Black America. Put simply, we have failed to plan; choosing instead to be wholly reactionary to incidents after they have occurred. Within the African-American community, things are in such disarray that many have publicly questioned if the “Black community” still exists, particularly as there does not appear to be any semblance of political collectivism, economic self-sufficiency, or social decorum.

The issues of politico or socioeconomic collectivism among African-Americans is a topic bantered about and discussed in venues that vary from Black Nationalist gatherings to Black barbershops/beauty salons. All seem to agree that in regards to collective movements, the “Black Community”, a term that appears to be more of an oxymoron as the days pass, is in a downward spiral; however, few understand why this has occurred.

More specifically, how did African-American political leaders, business people, intellectuals, educators, clergymen, the populations that William Edward Burghardt Du Bois characterized as the Talented-Tenth allow this to occur? Were the elite too preoccupied with accumulating material possessions? Were they focused upon giving their offspring everything they never had and in the process failed to inform them that the descendants of enslaved people are eternally inextricably linked with each other? It appears that African-American leaders are the only racial/ethnic leadership group that has failed to deliver the point that collectivist economics and political solidarity are crucial to survival. Failure to understand collectivist politics and the utility of economic solidarity places African-Americans in the peculiar predicament that the great Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes expounded upon in his poem, I, Too

I, too, sing America, 

I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.



I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to m,

“Eat in the kitchen,”




They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed –


I, too, am America.

One of the most amazing developments in today’s highly contemptuous battle for survival has been African-Americans inability to understand that survival, let alone prosperity, in the game of life hinges upon collectivism and coalitions; and I predict that until those lessons are learned, we will continue to dine in the kitchen that Hughes alludes to, anxious for others to issue an invitation, purely out of the goodness of their heart, to dine with the rest of the nation. That invite will never come from a place of kindness. Put simply, life is analogous to a board game where various races and special interest groups attempt to increase their holdings [political and economic power] through strategic maneuverings, the ability to coordinate with other players, who are invariably receiving some benefit from an always tenuous alliance, increases a group’s opportunity for success.

Considering this analogy, it appears as if other groups — Alternative Lifestyle [Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer], Women [Wealthy, Middle-Class, Working-Class, Asian, Latina, White, Black], Asian [Chinese, Japanese, Filipino] Latina [Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Cuban, Dominican] and White [Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Russian, Italian, Polish, German] — are able to make logical moves on the overcrowded game board and forge alliances to advance their unique interests.

Now, it is not that persons of African descent [Nigerian, Jamaican, African-American, Ghanaian, Black Brits, Haitian, Cuban, Brazilian, Caribbean] are not involved in the game, it is that they are the least likely to forge an alliance with other groups, including within their own racial group. Predictably, their attempt to navigate the game of life alone leads to not only frustration, but also the total loss of their political power and total dependence upon others for material survival; they eventually develop a parasitic relationship to a more dominant, not necessarily numerically superior, group.

In due time, some Blacks will make what they consider a logical move to get in the game, a decision that drives home just how uninformed they are in regards to how it is played, they will shun others within their own racial/ethnic group and attempt to join with another group that they have little in common with, thinking that such is an appropriate strategy to extricate themselves out of the cavernous sinkhole they see their race sinking into. Little do they realize, by ignoring their own and forging an alliance with strangers, they have made a Faustian deal that guarantees them nothing more than a few politico economic crumbs that the larger players will offer, but only after their appetite has been satisfied! In their defense, I must add that the primary reason persons of African descent never turn to fellow descendants of Africa to forge coalitions is because they have been taught in classrooms, media, and through experience that, “Niggers don’t know how to handle no business.” It is common to hear vain, boastful Negroes announce that they are the only one’s making significant politico economic moves; we all know that this individual is a fool as he/she erroneously believes that they can singularly take on the world and succeed via some pyramid/get rich quick scheme.

This situation is not new; Marcus Garvey observed over a century ago that throughout his travels in Europe, the Caribbean, South and North America, there were a few constants. Garvey discovered that regardless of where he went, African-Americans were the least educated, the poorest, and in the worst health. The presence of the same situation among populations of persons of African descent on myriad continents screams that such a development is neither a coincidence nor happenstance. Garvey, along with a host of other Black leaders including, but not limited to, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Albert Cleage, Malcolm X, and Huey P. Newton, repeatedly remarked that the genesis of our oppression emanates from our minds. Meaning, that what we intake into our minds creates our reality. Hence, if one wants to control a person’s reality, they merely need to control what they consume mentally, keep in mind, a major aspect of this process includes the curtailing of certain information from entering into what can be best termed an intellectual diet.

There is ample evidence to support the above observation all around us. It is not coincidental that students who matriculate from Notre Dame are on one accord in regards to the issue of Abortion, just as it is unheard of for modern-day Jews to not support the state of Israel. My point is simply that other groups, [GLBTQ, whites, Asians, Hispanics, Women] those that African-Americans are competing against in the game of life, utilize education as a means of ‘manufacturing consent’ among their group. Such is the favored operations of newly arrived populations to this nation.

How many times have we seen ‘foreigners’ arrive in America under dubious circumstances and within one generation, two generations at the most, they have ‘picked themselves up by their own bootstraps’ and surpassed African-Americans not only in regards to economics, but also in regards to flexing their political muscle. The latter is particularly daunting as these groups are invariably numerically smaller than African-Americans; you must remember that we live in a land that operates under the mantra of ‘one man, one vote’. The path for the aforementioned ‘foreigners’ politico economic improvement never varies; for a period of time they close ranks, mobilize their political and economic resources, the latter is usually achieved by capitalizing upon an economically exploitable Black community, while simultaneously focusing their energies upon hard work and educating their men, women, and children with an eye toward political power, economic self-sufficiency, and a liberating theology. One can not be angry at the alluded to populations for their actions, it is the surest way of improving one’s status in America; the anger should be directed toward those that are repeatedly exploited in the same manner decade-after-decade.

Despite this process occurring right before their eyes, many African-Americans are silly enough to believe in a gospel of individuality. The logic of such Negroes is that if they work diligently enough on an individual basis, success is certain to follow; even a cursory examination of global history reveals the fallacy of such thoughts. I had a professor who once highlighted the fallacy of such thought by remarking, ‘If hard work were all that you needed to succeed in America, Black folk would run this nation because no one has worked harder than us’; hard work and diligent effort, although a part of the equation, is in no way the entire equation.

I must admit that I am amused when Conservative groups such as the Tea Party stand in the midst of their collective group and advise others to seek political power and economic freedom individually, please do not be seduced by the lie of American individualism. It is amazing that those who publicly champion the virtues of individuality are simultaneously mobilizing political resources on a collective basis; do not fret though, they are not totally inconsistent, they intend to enjoy their material gain individually.

This situation begs the question, is there any entity capable of liberating African-Americans politically, socially, and economically. There actually is a group of scholars within the Black Studies Movement, as well as leaders of independent Black organizations such as the Nation of Islam who could forge a plan for our liberation, unfortunately, there is no efficient method of trumping the mistrust sewn in Negro minds. However, it is only the aforementioned entities that we can reasonably expect to use their mental power and resources to study African-Americans for positive, non-exploitative, purposes. Considering the current position of African-Americans, it is foolish for us not to focus our energies upon studying, mobilizing, and then executing a plan to help uplift the race. Failure to do so will most certainly result in a continuation of the dire consequences currently affecting the community.

If you remember nothing else from this blog, please remember that life is like a game, with multiple players possessing the same goal of securing as much political power and economic wherewithal to not only live independently, but also flex those politico economic muscles when need be; a decision that invariably leads those they are in conflict with to behave in a way that is not in their best interests. It will not be until persons of African descent understand that other groups are organized and executing plans aimed at increasing their politico economic strengths. A major ingredient in the collecting of politico economic resources by power brokers is political disorganization and economic inefficiency of other groups. The question facing African-Americans today is the same one that faced them a century ago, how long will they allow the game to operate before they  wise up and begin mobilizing their game pieces and develop a strategic plan to not only decisively enter the game in a meaningful manner, but also recognize that the invitation to participate will never arrive; in fact, the game has been going on for centuries, its just that we did not recognize it.

Committed to investigating, examining, and representing the African-American male, men, and manhood by offering commentary regarding the status of Black Men and Black Manhood as it relates to African-American Manhood, Race, Class, Politics, and Culture from an educated and authentic African-American perspective aimed at improving the plight of African-American men and African-American Manhood in regards to Politics, Culture, Education, and Social Matters.

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