Goals, Race, Women Empowerment

Thank You, First Lady Michelle Obama

I recently penned an article for Ebony magazine celebrating Michelle Obama’s service as the First Lady of the United States. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the link: Thank You, First Lady Michelle Obama

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As his historic presidency draws to a close, there’s much to reflect on the legacy of President Obama. And just as importantly, there’s much to reflect on the legacy of First Lady Michelle Obama. In her sista-friend interview with Oprah Winfrey at the recent United State of Women summit, Mrs. Obama looked back on her journey to the White House and how she initially approached her future role as First Lady of the United States: “I specifically did not read other First Ladies’ books, because I didn’t want to be influenced by how they defined the role,” she said. “I knew that I would have to find this role very uniquely and specifically to me and who I was.”

Sage advice that, unfortunately, prospective FLOTUS-in-training Melania Trump failed to heed. Mrs. Trump, who made her long awaited public debut Monday night at the Republican National Convention, delivered a riveting speech that thrilled the packed arena of “Make America Great Again” supporters. Motivating statements such as, We want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them,” prompted the crowd to erupt in cheers. Many likely thinking, finally, a First Lady who genuinely cares about the future of America; something that could never be said of Michelle Obama.

Oh, but it could. In fact, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Obama practically gave the same speech. A speech that she more than lived up to in her eight years of service to this country. Sadly, no one told Mrs. Trump that you can plagiarize words but not the genuine sentiments behind them.

Mrs. Obama, as a person and as First Lady, resonates with many because of her authenticity. This has been echoed in countless conversations I’ve had with others over the last eight years and the recent formal survey of about 60 Black women across the country. As 34-year-old Michelle J., of Austin, TX stated, “She was open about her real life experiences in a world of politics where everyone pretends that their lives are without flaws.”

The survey gave voice to women ranging in age from 20s to 60s, and with educational attainment of high school diploma/GED to PhD. With such vast differences in demographics, it was interesting to see the trends that emerged: optimism, relatability, and “realness.”

When asked to rate (on a scale of ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’) various statements about the First Lady and why they relate to her, the following were the most consistently agreed or strongly agreed upon:

·       88% said she has made them (more) optimistic about the future of Black/African-American women.

·       82% said that because of her, other races/nationalities perceive Black/African-American women in a more favorable light.

They relate to her because:

·       92% – she’s Black.

·       96% – she’s stylish.

·       98% – she’s no-nonsense.

·       98% – she’s not afraid to speak her mind.

·       98% – she can go from the White House to a cookout and not miss a step.

·       96% – in her they see all the things that are possible for themselves.

·       96% – in her they see all the things that are possible for Black/African-American girls and teens.

·       90% – in her they see all the things that are possible for Black/African-American women.

In the words of 37-year-old Nikki F. from Chicago, Il (Mrs. Obama’s hometown), “She represents everything our [Black girls] parents taught us that we could be.”

It’s not easy being the first, however. It’s harder still to be the first in a role that you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. As the First Lady has stated, “When Barack was talking about running, I was like, are you crazy? I mean, would you just, like, chill out and do something else with your life?” Clearly, the woman was not clamoring for the limelight. Given the choice, she would have lived a fulfilling life tirelessly working to encourage and bring attention to the need for all Americans – especially our youth – to dedicate time to volunteerism and public service.

Thankfully for us, she changed her mind and joined her husband in bringing a “change we can believe in” dream to America. So, in 2009, when her husband was sworn in as the country’s 44th President, we welcomed her with open arms because she presented her authentic self. And because of the connection to her authenticity, we invited her to make us proud; she did not disappoint.

As the first and only (and if we’re being realistic – likely last . . . for a very long time) Black woman to hold this post, Mrs. Obama has exemplified excellence both in words and action. While many love her, there’s a special kinship most Black women feel toward her. It’s not just because she looks like us (although it’s clearly a meaningful fact, according to the survey); it goes so much deeper than that. It’s that she’s made no apologies for the fact that we matter to her. An anomaly in a country where being Black and female has historically meant being discounted, marginalized, and defeated.

As recently as the 2015 Black Women in the United States report, statistics show that the current state of Black American women remain grim:

·       Women’s unemployment fell to a six-year low (4.9%) and white women’s unemployment hit a seven-year low (4.2%). Completely counter to that trend, Black women’s unemployment actually ticked up, reaching 8.9%.

·       Black women with Bachelor’s degrees, on average, earn about $10,000 less than White men with an Associate’s degree ($49,882 vs. $59,014). In fact, it would take nearly two Black women college graduates to earn what the average White male college graduate earns by himself ($55,804 vs. $100, 620).

·       In spite of consistently leading all women in labor market participation, Black women are among the most likely in America to be poor. In fact, the poverty rate of Black women (25.1%) more than doubles that of White women (10.3%) and Asian women (11.5%), and slightly eclipses that of Latinas (24.8%).

In the face of harsh statistics and the personal challenges experienced by Black women, is it any wonder that we “beam with pride” for one who encourages her daughters, mentees, and other women of color “not to live by the limited box and definition that we are put in.” Because she knows that expectations for Black girls – whether they grow up on Chicago’s South Side or in a remote village in Nigeria – are limited, Mrs. Obama created initiatives such as “Let Girls Learn” to provide educational opportunities that change lives.

FLOTUS dancing

During her tenure, Mrs. Obama has shown a willingness to leveraged her platform of power and influence to make it possible to aim and achieve our potential, which is why we say thank you.

Below are sample voices of Black women sharing the importance of the First Lady to them:

“She represents everything I can be that the world doesn’t want me to be.” – Lauren W., 27, New Orleans, La

“Michelle matters to me because she breaks the stereotypical views of African-American women in not only America but the world! For 8 years, she has held the position of First Lady, while also wearing so many other hats – a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a philanthropist, an educator and so much more. She’s held her composure at all times with poise, class and humility. She’s addressed issues that most women in her position wouldn’t or know how to. It makes me proud to say the First Lady of America is Michelle Obama, an African American woman.” – Anon, 28, Valley Stream, NY

“First Lady Michelle Obama matters to me because she is great role model for me as an African American woman but also just as a person in general. My being young may have something to do with it, but I’ve never known a First Lady who was so involved issues that are affecting our youth and that inspires me to do more for my community. I also look up to her for her poise and natural confidence. Unlike a lot of celebrities, Michelle Obama provides a healthy and attainable example of what hard work can accomplish.” – Anon, 29

“Michelle Obama matters to me because she has proven to be everything that I expected her to be. She is a woman of stature, grace, beauty, brains and a mother. She has shown that she isn’t just a First Lady, she is an everyday woman who we of all ages can look up to and strive to be more like.” –  Kimberley T., 29, Bronx, NY

“Because she is the perfect example of a Black woman. We are not only what the media and society portrays (uneducated, loud, ratchet) she is someone that i can point out to my 

daughter to inspire to one day be.” – Tanaya G., 33, Cleveland, OH

“Michelle Obama matters to me because of her intersections: Black woman, mother, lawyer, advocate, wife. She is also sensitive, outspoken, loving and unafraid to me vulnerable.” – Erica C., 34, Queens, NY

“The First Lady matters to me in so many ways. The strongest strength I draw from her though is her ability to pull through authenticity and genuineness and whatever she does. Often African-American women are put in tough, precarious even soul sucking positions to grow professionally. Watching Mrs. Obama deal with the ridicule while staying true to who she is has taught me so much about how I can also do the same and still feel good about myself.” – Allison R., 34, New York, NY

“Because she gets it. The experience of a Black woman in America. I don’t know if anyone with that level of power and access to power in the US has ever understood that experience.” – Rachel H., 34, New York, NY

“The FLOTUS matters to me because I admire her strength in a position where she has constantly been criticized, belittled, and stereotyped. Never, not even for one second, has she stumbled or lost her composure. She has remained the classy, sophisticated, honest, and down to earth woman who stepped onto the campaign trail so many years ago. As we well know, beside every great man is an equally great woman and First Lady Obama has been a shining example of what black excellence looks like. I beam with pride when I see her. She makes me feel like so many things are possible that I once wasn’t sure were. She’s a hope and a dream set to a smooth beat.” – Shamela B., 36, Tupelo, MS

“Simply put: she represents hope.” – Kimberly T., 39, Indianapolis, IN

“She is a role model that our daughters can actually relate to. My worry is not so much for my peers as it is for our future young leaders. I am the mother to one teenage daughter and aunt to 8 young girls. As Black women we need more than a village to prepare our young women for their futures.” – Elita Celeste H, 41, Bronx, NY

“FLOTUS means a great deal to me because she showed how elegant and sophisticated one can be without coming from a pedigree background. She did it her way! She did not conform to any set of rules or standards but presented a new level of exceptional quality that will be very hard for the next First Lady to achieve. FLOTUS is my SHERO!!” – Alfreda M., 45, Dallas, TX

“Michelle has dispelled the media’s portrayal of the Black woman as being uneducated, jobless, hopeless, worthless, baby-mommas that mooch off of the government and give birth to criminals and gangster rappers.” – Lee H.

“First Lady Michelle Obama matters to me because she represents all of what any and all African American women can be. She breaks down many stereotypes and proves what can happen when one gets a good education and does not settle for just what one is given; she strives for better. She proves if we as African American women/girls put our minds to it, we can do and be anything we want. She also matters to me because she is not content with her own successes. She does her best to help other be successful as well.” – Katrina

“She defies the stereotype that Black women cannot articulate a thought or plan of action. Her actions are selfless and demonstrate a passionate desire for the children in our nation to have a great future that is limitless.” – Amika K.

It’s a powerful reflection of her legacy to see the many women she’s encouraged and motivated to hope and work for a better future for themselves and the teens and girls coming behind them.  So, thank you, Mrs. Obama, for connecting with us in a way that no other First Lady ever has before (or likely ever will).

 

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Business, Career, Economic Equality, Economic Inequality, Entrepreneurship, Equal Pay, Gender, Gender Equality, Gender Inequality, Goals, Levo League, Money, Race, Racial Equality, Racial Inequality, Socioeconomic Status, Voice, Women Empowerment, Writing

Diversity Without Power Is Still Not Enough

I recently penned an article for Jet magazine in response to a photo posted by the Huffington Post. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the link: Diversity Without Power Is Still Not Enough by M. Michelle Derosier for Jet magazine.

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If you’re a professional and a person of color in America, chances are you’ve been part of at least one meeting, a team or a department where yours was one of (if not) the only [insert race or culture] face in the crowd.

Yet, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education reports, “In the U.S., the white portion of the working-age population (generally ages 25 to 64) is declining, while the minority portion is increasing.”

While we’d like to think that our personal experience is the exception and not the rule, the picture below tweeted recently by Liz Heron, Executive Editor at the Huffington Post, seems to spit in the face of this statistic.

HuffPost Editors Meeting Twitter Photo M Michelle Derosier

To answer Ms. Heron’s question, we notice much about this editors meeting. While we give kudos to the solid representation of women, we’re disturbed by the poor representation of people of color.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that in this room sits many who decide which stories are worth sharing and whose voices will tell them. In an organization that draws in more than 200 million unique visitors a month; she who controls whose story is told, shapes reader perception. For those who are saying that this group of women aren’t execs or CEOs and don’t move the financial needle of the company, remember that power can be just as much about who controls the narrative as about who controls the purse strings.

And that is at the heart of my issue with this photo. It’s such a vivid reminder that those climbing fastest or currently highest on the power pyramid – the key decision makers – rarely look anything like the changing American landscape. In 2014, nonwhites accounted for 38 percent of the U.S. population, but those who hold the power to shape multimillion dollar companies are barely a blip on the radar.

An article posted, ironically, on the Huffing Post found just over 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2014 were minorities, a classification including African-Americans, Asians, and Latin-Americans.

To underscore the significance of the power of those in control of the finances as an example, according to Fortune magazine: “In total, the Fortune 500 companies account for $12.5 trillion in revenues, $945 billion in profits, $17 trillion in market value and employ 26.8 million people worldwide.”

Whether 100, 250, or 500 – whatever the Fortune ranking of companies of total revenues for their respective fiscal year – minority representation in key leadership roles is practically nonexistent.

With so few minorities governing the path of these companies, our collective power to see real change that will elevate the social economic status of the masses and not just the few, is significantly diminished.

While we should celebrate–loudly–the people of color who make it into the door; we should never be satisfied with diversity in just the cubicles. We need equal representation at the decision tables. We can start with one voice, then push for two, and continue for three. However, may we never stop until companies such as the Huffington Post are tweeting photos that represent a racially and culturally diverse group of decision makers.

 

 

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90s

13 Random Thoughts While Binge Watching Fuller House

It should come as no surprise to you given my many #90s references in earlier posts, I was a Full House fan.

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And as fan, I am one of the many across the country responsible for the 326k tweets (last checked at 4:24am) about the Fuller House premiere.

mmderosier 29 yrs

The creators had nostalgic-me at its inception. While I knew it would be corny and not likely to blend with today’s culture (and I was proven right), I devoured every article, cast photo tweet, teaser, and trailer that led to the debut. And it’s that same nostalgia and desire to take a stroll down memory lane to revisit very-much-missed old friends that had me binge watch the full season (13 episodes).

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And, of course, I had thoughts while watching. Here are a few.

*Obligatory warning: spoilers included.*

  • It’s been 29 years! How’s that possible? 2016-1987=29. Hmm okay it’s possible.
  • 11 pm is a ridiculous time to start watching what you know is 1 of 13 episodes. As with potato chips, you never eat just one. No matter how much you convince yourself you will. Sooo tired.
  • Nostalgia is real.
  • I felt all the feelings. DJ confessing to baby Tommy that she’s overwhelmed and scared to parent 3 children on her own. Steff sharing with DJ that she can’t have kids. Danny unable to let go of his beloved couch.
  • Love the career choices for the ladies. A vet. A DJ (ironically, not DJ’s profession but her sister Stephanie’s). A party planner.
  • Thank you for not hiring Abercrombie models to play the kids. Though good looking, these actors can easily be found at any K-12 school or neighborhood mall in America. They’re not perfect, which makes them relatable.
  • The baby playing Tommy has great comedic timing. And those chubby cheeks are too adorable.
  • Fernando genuinely makes me laugh. And as dramatic as he is, it makes me happy that someone loves Kimmy to the core where most everyone else just tolerate her. Let them get married again.
  • I understand that the 25th anniversary vow renewal of Jesse and Becky was meant as a plot advancement for Kimmy and Fernando, but it made zero sense for the twins (Alex and Nicky) and Danny to be absent. It made even less sense that no one mentioned why.
  • Are Lori Loughlin and John Stamos drinking the blood of virgin unicorns? How can they look so amazing after all these years?
  • Some (most?) first loves should stay in the past. Just because there was chemistry once, doesn’t mean there will be again. I cried with DJ when she and Steve broke up as teenagers and loved that they reconnected in the final episode of the original show. However, the past, in this case, needs to remain in the past. The DJ and Steve of today have zero chemistry. It was awkward and uncomfortable watching the actors force it. Some doors are meant to stay close. And memories are meant to remain protected and taken out only every couple few years to reminisce. Then they should be returned where they belong.
  • Maybe Steve would have had a chance (that’s a very low probability) in my eyes if Matt was not in the picture. But he is. And the connection he and DJ share is electrifying. Wow. He just lights a fire in her that comes across from her very core. He makes her sparkle.
  • Just because you can go home again doesn’t mean you should. While I absolutely loved reconnecting with all these characters from my childhood, if this show is to survive it needs to find its own legs to stand own. Playing the nostalgia card has a short lifespan. Girl Meets World managed to transition nicely and I have hope that Fuller House can too. While I haven’t watched GMW beyond a couple of very early episodes, it’s thriving because it’s found a new audience who will love it as much as the Boy Meets World audience (like me) did. For FH to start bonding and building a relationship with a new generation it needs to keep the memories in the past. While they can be revisited every once in a rare while, they can’t keep being dragged into the present.

Would I watch again if the show is picked up for a second season? Probably. But I can only forgive so much more before I lose interest and delete my brother’s Netflix login. Side note: cable and streaming subscriptions are not part of the rain-on-sallie-mae plan. Yay for family members with no student debt.

Did you watch? What are your thoughts?

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Business, Career, Coding, Confidence, Education, Entrepreneurship, Goals, Money, Skills, Travel, Voice, Writing

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!

When was the last time you attempted something that hurled you from your comfort zone? How about something that shoved you out of your safe and comfortable bubble? Or maybe something that gave you a slight nudge out of your big-fish-small-pond reality?

If it took you longer to answer these questions than it does for Kanye to have a meltdown, it’s probably time for a new challenge.

Here are 3 Growth-Encouraging Challenges for your consideration.

1. Learn a new skill. I kicked off 2015 and continued into 2016 not with a resolution, but with the goal of undertaking a project that would squeeze every last drop of brain power not sucked dry by the education system. Learning to code is most certainly living up to this goal. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery. I’m just getting started, but it already feels like I’ve gone a couple of rounds with a Lifetime TV Child Genius.

Maybe your challenge is not a new programming language. Maybe it’s a traditional language. Bonjour! Buenos dias! Guten Tag! Perhaps it’s learning to cook. Mayhap it’s learning to budget. Or maybe to knit. Or to become a more powerful public speaker. Whatever the skill, find something that you’re not traditionally “good at” and learn it. Because time is a precious resource and we can’t always afford to learn for the sake of learning, invest the effort, time, and possibly money in a skill that aligns with one or more of your long-term goals.

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2. Take a trip. In 2011 a group of friends and I went on a whirlwind five-city tour that culminated in Cairo, Egypt. To refresh your memory, 2011 in Egypt was a year of civil unrest that toppled the 30-year reign of President Mubarak. I can’t say it was the most stress-free time to visit the country. We went through a metal detector before we could enter our hotel. When I jokingly asked what it was we were being screened for, the officer succinctly answered, “bombs”. Insert big, fearful eyes.

I’m not suggesting that you pack up and head to the nearest country facing political instability, but just go beyond Montreal or Cancun. Not that there’s anything wrong with either place. What I’m saying instead is to find your Egypt – someplace that readjusts your world view and leaves you with a new understanding of the things you take for granted. If Montreal is your Egypt, great, go! But if Montreal is your “they know me and I know them” default location, throw a dart on a map and land somewhere else.

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3. Share yourself with others. When I clicked submit and officially entered the 2013 So You Think You Can Write Harlequin contest, my heart dropped to my stomach. I had yanked the door wide open for others to see my heart. To criticize. To judge. I took my writing – something that’s always been very personal to me and closely guarded – and shared it with an audience. But I needed that experience to give me the courage to work towards becoming a published author. Something that hasn’t happened yet, but now there’s no turning back from.

What are you fearful of sharing? Are you the soul-touching singer refusing to share your voice with an audience? Or the brilliant painter passing on the opportunity to display his work? Whatever the reason for your hesitation, why not make today the day to overcome it?

mmderosier reader feedback

mmderosier Reina and Eli

Remember that if doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

So, what challenge will change you this year? What challenges have changed you in the past? How can you apply lessons from the past to grow this year?

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Career, Education, Make It Rain, Money, Student Loans

I Finished Paying Sallie Mae Back

I am here for this #Dee1Nation song. It’ll probably be out of style by the time I too can sing “I finished paying Sallie Mae Navient back”, but you best believe I’ll be screaming it at the top of my lungs. I finished paying Sallie Mae back, Mae back!!! 🎧🎤🎧 🎉🎉🎉  And I’ll take one of those t-shirts.

Make it rain on sallie mae mmderosier

 

 

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90s, Education, Make It Rain, Money, Student Loans

Struggling to pay your student loans? Find the “extra”.

Let’s be honest. At times we complain about wanting things to change, but secretly want the change without the effort. Whether it’s weight loss, saving money, or paying off debt, sometimes we just want the issue to resolve itself without any sacrifice on our end.

Sometimes we’re simply too tired to keep trying. Too tired to keep giving up what we want now for what’s better for us in the long run.

make it rain on navient mmderosier

I understand. I’ve had those moments. And had one recently that I had to push through.

While I celebrated that we were able to find the “extra” last month to make it rain $203 on Navient,

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it was frustrating that we did so in part by reducing our personal ‘fun money’ (discretionary fund).

And with less money, comes less fun. At least in NYC.

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I admit to stomping my feet and crying about life not being fair. But then came to my adult senses and snapped out of it.

Not having enough to do everything, I had to be strategic about how to use what I had left when it came time to hanging out with friends.

First, I couldn’t accept every invitation, unfortunately. Second, I had to schedule meetups after the start of a new budget. And third, I had to be straightforward about needing to work around limited funds.

making it rain on navient mmderosier

Thankfully, my friends are Waldo-Geraldo-Faldo laid-back and just said “cool” and kept it moving.

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It’s good to be surrounded by people who support instead of derail your goals.*

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Student debt repayment is a commitment. Unless a rich eccentric aunt comes out of the woodwork to offer us a windfall, most of us won’t be rid of it overnight.

It’s okay if we get tired. To say it’s not worth doing more than the minimum. It’s okay to be frustrated in the moment. To walk away to clear our heads. Go for a run. Have a good cry. Play music. Read a book. Watch a silly movie.

And when we’ve done so, we can come back renewed and refocused on why this goal matters to us. And then we can keep going.

Make it rain on Navient mmderosier

I’d love to hear your updates. What changes have you made recently to make it rain on your goals? Where are you finding the “extra”? How are you handling the too-tired days?

* 😦 Brittany Murphy. And I miss pre-Fox News Stacey Dash.

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Education, Make It Rain, Money, Student Loans

Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!!

When you make your security deposit rain on Sallie Mae Navient instead of buying lovely living room furniture.

responsible adult Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

living room grey Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

When you pay off a $2,400 student loan!

excited Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

PAID Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

When your mind whispers *loudly* that you still have $126k to go!

scared Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

loan balance Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

When you take a breath to stop freaking out. Just remember to tackle this in bite-size chunks.

stop freaking out Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

Rain forecast Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

When you exhale ready to start over again. Bring it on!

Paid!!! Paid!!! Paid!!! One Student Loan Paid!!! mmderosier

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