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Season 6:

Black Republicans

Today, Shelley takes on the tough topic of black participation in politics as he interviews Raynard Jackson. At the time of the interview in 1998, Mr Jackson was Chairman of the Americans for a Brighter Future and an outspoken black Republican.

Freeborn Slave: Diary of a Black Man in the South

Today, Shelley shares an interview with Birmingham resident Karen Ameen.

The interview took place in 1996, shortly after Ms. Ameen published the book Freeborn Slave, Diary of a Black Man in the South. 

The book is a collection of memoirs dictated by her great-grandfather, Jasper Rastus Nall, an individual who was born at the end of the Civil War.

Internalized Racism (Rebroadcast)

Hey, Plumbliners...

Shelley was feeling a bit under the weather this week, so he asked me to find one of your favorite episodes of Shelley's Plumbline and rebroadcast it.

Well, it turns out our very first episode was one of the most popular, and we released it a little over one year ago. Happy Anniversary to us!

Please enjoy -- and be informed! This is a powerful episode about Internalized Racism. 

Enjoy!

An Interview with Fred Shuttlesworth.

Today, Shelley shares a very special interview from 1991 with the one-and-only Fred Shuttlesworth.

Reverend Shuttlesworth co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was instrumental in the 1963 Birmingham Campaign with Martin Luther King.

Shuttlesworth participated in the sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in 1960 and took part in the organization and execution of the Freedom Rides in 1961. Shuttlesworth invited the SCLC and MLK to Birmingham in 1963 to lead the campaign to desegregate it through mass demonstrations–what Shuttlesworth called "Project C." The "C" stood for "confrontation".

 

In 1965, he was active in the Selma Voting Rights Movement and its march from Selma to Montgomery, which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

 

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The Genocide of Black Culture.

This week’s episode draws on an interview from 1991 with playwright Edward McRay.

He goes deep into the finer points of African culture, history, and the limits of the American educational system. Cultures must share their histories to increase understanding.

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Excerpts from the Inside Out Documentary.

Today we have a very special edition of Shelley’s Plumbline.

In 2002, Shelley visited two prisons in Alabama and spoke with inmates about their stories and turned it into the documentary Inside Out. And those stories speak for themselves. They are powerful. They are moving. They are profound. Stay tuned.

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The Back Porch: Instinct and the Inner Voice.

Hello, Plumbliners, and welcome to Season 6 of Shelley’s Plumbline.

Shelley and I have been talking about changing the format of the Plumbline for some time, so we thought today we would give that a try.

We call this format The Back Porch. Think of it as “Shelley Unplugged.”

Today, Shelley and I are going to discuss instinct and the inner voice that guides us through our lives.

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Season 5:

Some states are afraid to teach history. We're not. Season 5 will focus on the tough topics some states are afraid to teach. But don't get us wrong. We do it not to threaten, not to scare, but to share.

Ignoring our history does not make it go away. When we face the truth, we are all stronger for it.

We've got new content for you every Wednesday. Make sure you subscribe!

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Your Vote is Your Voice. Are You a Democrat or a Republican?

So here we are – another major election is just half a year away.

Today’s podcast features a show from 1996. Stay tuned as Shelley explores the questions that remain the same then as they are today: What do you believe? Who do you support? Who will you vote for?

Your vote is your voice. If you do not speak, someone else will.

An interview with Park Scott on the Bahai Faith.

Today, Shelley shares an interview from 1991 with Park Scott, Senior. He discusses the Bahai Faith and how it seeks the oneness of humanity, the elimination of prejudice and a harmony between science and religion.

Wake Up, Everybody, Part 2.

By popular demand, Shelley and Teddy Pendergrass continue to share the message: Wake Up, Everybody.

Wake Up, Everybody.

Today, Shelley shares a simple message. Wake up everybody. It’s time to think ahead. Wake Up, Everybody. The time is now.

Did Malcolm X Teach Us Something or Are We Doing the Same Thing Now?

Today, we share Malcolm X's famous Ballots or Bullets address. The message rings true: The key to freedom lies in economic prosperity. Economic opportunity for all is the tide that will lift all boats.

Celebrating Powerful Women

Today Shelley celebrates National Women’s Month with some personal reflections on the strong women he has known in his life, from his mother Mattie C whom he saw murdered when he was five years old, to Oprah and Kamala Harris. Stay tuned as we celebrate the power of women.

Hate Crimes, Rebroadcast

Hey, Plumbliners…

Shelley has been in the hospital the past couple of weeks, so he asked me to rebroadcast a previous episode. I looked back in the archives at one of my favorites. It’s from episode 4 of season 1 and it features an interview with attorney Rodney Max discussing Hate Crimes. The original interview was broadcast in 1993, but the message is still very relevant today.

And if you’re so inclined send your thoughts and prayers to shelley@shelleysplumbline.com

Shelley Reflects on Black History Month and Racism in America

As we come to the end of Black History Month, Shelley looks back on the last three episodes and shares his personal insights on the overt and not so overt signs that racism are still evident in America today.

 

Stay tuned as the Plumbline seeks the truth.

Shelley Reflects on Black History Month and Racism in America

As we come to the end of Black History Month, Shelley looks back on the last three episodes and shares his personal insights on the overt and not so overt signs that racism are still evident in America today.

 

Stay tuned as the Plumbline seeks the truth.

Excerpts from "Remembering Slavery."

Today we continue telling more stories of Black history, as we share an excerpt from the recording, “Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation,” published by The New Press, in conjunction with the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. Stay tuned and you’ll hear the words of actual slaves performed by well-known actors.

Early Slave Rebellions.

Hey, Plumbliners. Before we begin with this week’s episode, we’d like to thank you for the emails!

 

We received an email from a teacher in Washington state. She says, … My class has been learning about the Children's March recently, and one student asked whatever happened to Shelley the Playboy after watching the documentary "Mighty Times." That led us to some internet research, which led to finding this podcast and website. When we discussed what we value enough to risk getting in trouble to defend it, many kids mentioned both Freedom and Music; it's no wonder they find an activist like Mr. Stewart so appealing.” the teacher added “We wanted to say thank you to Mr. Stewart for his work during The Children's March. I want to say, as an educator of color, how thankful and inspired I am by his work and the way he was able to reach children and support them in their activism. …I plan to let my class know about this podcast and might write to you again if they have questions. I'm excited to learn more about this podcast and the other great work Mr. Stewart has done throughout his life, and I'm grateful to my inquisitive students for giving me the start!

 

Well students in Washington state, Shelley would love to meet with you on a Zoom call sometime. And teacher? Keep up the good work. We love what you’re doing.

 

Another email from EA says…

Mr. Stewart, thank you for all you have done throughout the years. As a child I listened to you everyday on the radio. I'm 62 years old now ,and one day I would like to meet you.

 

And JF says

This article of Shelley the Playboy brings memories of my youth. I listen to you everyday growing up. I WOULD LOVE TO MEET YOU AND SIT DOWN TO A CUP OF COFFEE.

 

Well, we’ll work on those meetings. In the meantime, the one and only, one-time Shelley "The Playboy" is still on the air on Shelley’s Plumbline.

 

Thank you for your messages and words of support!

 

In this week’s Plumbline features an interview from 1995 with Azikwe Abdullah. Azikwe acknowledges that Nat Turner’s slave rebellion is the one history books talk about, but Azikwe reveals that there were many slave rebellions before that time. Stay tuned as the Plumbline seeks the truth.

Horace Huntley and the Dangers of Cultural Annihilation.

Here at the beginning of Black History Month, we welcome you to Season 5 of Shelley’s Plumbline. Since it is Black History Month, Shelley and I did some research. According to a recent article in Axios, “…lawmakers in 30 states have proposed new restrictions during the past year on what schools can teach about the nation's racial history…”

According to the74million.org ...18 (states) have passed laws restricting or banning the teaching of supposed critical race theory…”

So we decided, if these states won’t teach Black History, we will. And let us make one thing clear--we do not do this to stir up anger or hatred, because as Dr. King said, “Hate cannot drive out hate.”

We share this message to further understanding among all peoples. Ignoring our history does not make it go away. Appreciating the background of all fosters progress and prosperity for all. There’s your side, there’s my side and some where in the middle, the plumbline finds the truth.

Today’s episode re-broadcasts a 1997 interview with Horace Huntley, former professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UAB. He touches on the dangers of cultural annihilation and how that has limited the growth of our country. Tune in and learn more.

~ Mark Jamroz

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Shelley's Life in Music: Stories About the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

Today we bring Season 4 to an end as we shine the spotlight on the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. James was a controversial character to be sure, but he became good friends with Shelley and always admired Shelley’s belief in the power of education.

When James released the song Don’t Be A Dropout, he couldn’t wait to play it for Shelley and Shelley was one of the first to broadcast it on the air.

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Shelley's Life in Music: Stories About....Guess Who?

Since Shelley was a DJ and radio personality, he was instrumental in helping grow the careers of numerous well-known talented singers and musicians. During Season 4 we have covered stories about many of these musical giants who started as business associates of Shelley’s and blossomed into deep friendships.

We shared stories about BB King, Sam Cooke, and Johnnie Taylor. In episode 3, we talked about how Ray Charles drove a bus around the block in downtown Birmingham. Then, we heard touching stories about Lou Rawls and Bobby “Blue” Bland. And, of course, Shelley told us about his dear friend, Otis Redding.

 

Today, Shelley brings you more background about an often-overlooked musical talent – but we'll leave that introduction to Shelley. Tune in to find out who today's episode is about.

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Shelley's Life in Music: "The Big O," Otis Redding.

In today’s episode, we continue sharing stories from Shelley’s fascinating life in music as he tells us about his personal and professional relationship with Otis Redding.

Otis was a chauffeur for another band when he was discovered during a break at the recording studio in Muscle Shoals. Shelley was fortunate enough to be the first DJ to play Otis’s first recording on the air.

Their friendship grew, and Shelley left Radio for a while to become the PR Director for Otis’s Redwal Music Company in Macon, Georgia.

Stay tuned and learn more stories about the recording career and personal life of “The Big O,” Otis Redding.

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Hosea Williams: Did the Dream of Dr. King Become a Nightmare?

Hey Plumbliners. The theme of Season 4 has been about Shelley’s life in music. But this week, to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, we’re going to rebroadcast our podcast from Season 1 on Hosea Williams. Hosea Williams was a very close friend and associate of Dr King and was instrumental in organizing the Movement. Please enjoy this special episode.

Dr. King's legacy inspired generations of activists and leaders, and his contributions continue to be recognized and celebrated today as a beacon of hope and progress. But Dr. King had a premonition about his death, and he warned the members of his inner circle to beware of the tactics external forces would use to break the movement apart after he was gone.

As a member of the King's inner circle, Hosea Williams served as the advance man, organizing some of the most important events in the movement. Williams traveled to cities throughout the South, recruiting and organizing volunteers, paving the way for appearances by King, Jesse Jackson, and Andrew Young. Williams and John Lewis led the "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

This episode features an interview from September of 1994 with Shelley Stewart and Hosea Williams. Hosea reveals the dire warning King had for the members of his inner circle.

Was Hosea Williams right? Did the Dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Become a Nightmare? Listen and let us know what you think.

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Shelley's Life in Music: Bobby "Blue" Bland.

In this week’s episode, we continue exploring Shelley’s friendship with another major blues artist – Bobby “Blue” Bland, or “Blue” as Shelley called him.

Like many blues, soul and R&B artists, Shelley traces Blue’s work back to his Gospel roots. In fact, there are hints of those notes in many of his most popular songs.

Stay tuned and learn how Blue overcame personal obstacles, including illiteracy, to one day find a home in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Shelley's Reflections on Rosa Parks and the Rosa Parks Award.

On December 1, 2023, Shelley received the Rosa Parks Day Award for Leadership, Commitment to Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Civic Service.

Rosa Parks Day is December 1st because that was the day, in 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus.

In today’s podcast, Shelley reflects on the award and on his own notoriety.

Rosa had heard the story of a black boy who had moved the plank dividing the white and black sections of a streetcar. Years later, when Rosa and Shelley met, she learned that Shelley was that young boy.

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Shelley's Life in Music: Lou Rawls, Did You Pray Today?

Today we continue to explore Shelley’s life in the music world as we take a look at Lou Rawls.

Lou, like Sam Cooke, was born and raised in the Chicago area and crossed paths with Sam Cooke as they sang in gospel groups before moving into R&B, Jazz, and Soul.

Since Shelley was a popular radio personality, he had a hand in promoting the careers of both Sam and Lou and they became fast friends when they met at performances.

 

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Shelley's Life in Music: A Slice of Soul Heaven with Johnnie Taylor.

Today, Shelley talks about his personal and professional friendship with the Philosopher of Soul, otherwise known as Johnnie Taylor.

As the PR director for Redwal Music Company, Shelley had the opportunity to spend time with Johnnie, as well as other music greats on that label, including Otis Redding. We’ll get to Otis in a future podcast.

Both Johnnie and Shelley shared a love of spiritual music, and Johnnie eventually had a successful career singing blues, R&B, and soul. Johnnie confessed to Shelley that, in spite of his musical career, he really wanted to be a disc jockey. He became a DJ known as “The Wailer, Johnnie Taylor” on KKDA in Dallas, Texas. Johnnie passed in the year 2000, just a few months after releasing one of his best-known songs, “Soul Heaven.”

 

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Shelley's Life in Music: Unknown Stories About Ray Charles.

We continue to explore Shelley’s life in music, as Shelley shares stories about his relationship with Ray Charles.

Ray is definitely an icon in the blues world, known for his trademark Ray Ban sunglasses. In fact, it’s generally acknowledged that Ray was the first blind musician to wear sunglasses, setting a trend for future musicians. But Ray will be the first to say he never saw his blindness as a handicap.

 

Many did not know Ray loved to play chess, and he owned his own plane and was fascinated by flying. He was even known to take a turn as a pilot now and then. And in today’s episode, Shelley recalls how Ray drove his own bus around the block in downtown Birmingham on a bet.

 

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Shelley's Life in Music: A Conversation About Sam Cooke

Today as we continue to explore Shelley’s life in music, we feature a conversation about Sam Cooke, one of Shelley’s dear friends.

In fact, Shelley was so close to him that Sam was the godfather to one of his children.

 

Aside from being a very good friend, Sam and Shelley shared the same mission: to use the power of music to bring people together. They both played to integrated audiences at a time when that was not acceptable. In fact, it could be dangerous to do that.

 

Sam was a trailblazer not only with his music but his approach. He believed the artist should own the rights to their music so he was one of the first to write, produce and distribute his own music.

Sam’s life ended tragically before his time in 1964 when he was shot at a hotel in Los Angeles.

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Shelley's Life in Music: Stories About Riley "B.B." King

Two of the most popular episodes of Shelley’s Plumbline were Episode 1 of Season 2,  "The Final Interview with Eddie Kendricks."  A lot of folks also liked Episode 2 of Season 2 … about Shelley’s life scouting for musical talent on the Chitlin' Circuit.

So to kick off Season Four, we’re going to give you more stories about Shelley’s life in music – this time with his friend, Riley King – or should we say, BB King. Yup, THE BB King.

Stay tuned. Give it a listen. We think you’re going to like it.

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Recently Aired

An Open Forum Discussion on William Raspberry, Racism and Economic Power

From time to time, Shelley would conduct an open forum during his show, and listeners would call in. Today’s episode features a discussion from 1996 with Shelley and a listener regarding a speech given by William Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post. The discussion focuses on how racism is often used as an excuse or crutch against progress.

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Mayor Ford Talks About Redistricting in the 90s.

Today, we share an interview with Johnny Ford, the first African-American mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama. He served five terms from 1972 to 1996 when he won a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. He was re-elected mayor of Tuskegee in 2004, and he served until 2008. This interview touches on the issues of gerrymandering and how it unfairly affects the representation of the population in today's America.

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Yvonne Willie, Author of The Boy Who Didn't Want to Be Black

Yvonne Willie, Author of The Boy Who Didn't Want to Be Black

Today’s episode features an interview from 1998 with the author of The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Black, Yvonne Willie.

She and Shelley discuss the role of racial identity and self-worth, revealing that internalized racism is a learned behavior.

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Today’s episode features an interview from 1998 with the author of The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Black, Yvonne Willie.

She and Shelley discuss the role of racial identity and self-worth, revealing that internalized racism is a learned behavior.

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An Interview with Tommy Wrenn, Foot Soldier in the Movement

Today we continue our exploration of one of the many organizers in the Movement who had great influence but were not as well-known. This episode features an interview from January of 1998 when Shelley sat down with Tommy Wrenn.

Active in the movement in both Birmingham and Selma, Wrenn worked as a field staffer for the Dr King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Wrenn would go into towns to set up routes for protest marchers before King would arrive, doing the groundwork to make the event a success.

He expresses his frustration at the lack of support he received and how many people believed in the mission of the movement but stayed in the background.

Even after retiring as a dental technician, he remained active in politics and the movement until his death in 2010.

James Armstrong and His Story of the Integration of Graymont School

Today we continue to share little-known stories of the struggle during the early 60s with an interview with James Armstrong. He recounts the many artificial obstacles city officials presented him when he attempted to enroll his children in Graymont School in Birmingham, Alabama, at a time when it was segregated. 

He prevailed, however, and his sons Floyd and Dwight were the first students to integrate the school. 

This interview, conducted by Ron January, first aired on Shelley’s program “Open Mic” in 1993.

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Dr. Vincent Harding Discusses The True Meaning of the Struggle.

Today, we feature an interview with author and historian Dr. Vincent Harding. A social activist, he was perhaps best known for his work with and writings about Martin Luther King Jr., whom Harding knew personally. 

In this episode, Dr Harding sits down with Shelley and talks about not only the Black struggle – but how several different vectors of society then, as now, are engaged in a struggle for freedom.

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Recently Aired

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Uncovering The Movement:

An Interview With

Rev. N. H. "Fireball" Smith

In this episode, Shelley shares an interview from January 1993 with Rev. Nelson H. Smith, also known as "Fireball" Smith. Smith was another unknown yet highly influential foot soldier in the fight for human rights for all, participating in The Movement before the 1960s and marching side by side with Dr. King during the '60s.

Throughout his ministry, Smith preached the importance of higher education, financial management, and economics. He founded the New Pilgrim Credit Union in 1965 and led his church in the development of a bookstore and the New Pilgrim Towers apartments, to name a few of his accomplishments.

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Shelley's 89th Birthday Celebration!

Happy 89th Birthday to Shelley Stewart!

Today, we celebrate Shelley's 89th birthday with a recording of a speech Shelley made when he was 63 years old at Friendship Baptist Church.

This Church plays a special role in Shelley's life. As a boy of five, he saw his mother murdered just a few blocks away. In spite of growing up without his parents, he would celebrate his graduation in this same Church. 

Without a doubt, the Friendship Baptist Church has held a special place in Shelley's heart. In today's podcast, he shares a message that he's shared all his life.

A message that tells hard truths but also triumphs love, mutual respect, and human rights for ALL people and that faith is the power that enables the unlikely to accomplish the impossible.

Today's episode is a heartfelt message from Shelley, one of faith. What we know is if you lose faith, you lose all. 

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Yvonne Turner: A True

Human Rights Shero

This week, Shelley continues to explore some of the lesser-known yet powerful foot soldiers in the Movement. 

One such person is Yvonne Turner.

Who is Yvonne Turner? Well, well before the Human Rights Movement of the 60s, the true Movement began in the mid-1950s, and people like Yvonne Turner, Georgia Price, and others were instrumental in organizing voter education drives and meetings. Visit shelleysplumbline.com to see one of the voter education documents Yvonne created and shared so Blacks could be prepared to answer questions in order to vote.

She was often referred to as the most loved and hated woman in Birmingham because she helped the Movement so much but also spoke to a truth that many would rather not hear.

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Rare Speeches of

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To kick off Season 3 of Shelley's Plumbline, we went through his archives, and Shelley rediscovered some rare recordings of #MLK that he had forgotten about. 

 

These are speeches MLK made in Birmingham! Why are they rare? Because for his protection and to keep Bull Conner guessing, Dr. King would often show up to churches unannounced to make speeches. 

Shelley Stewart was in attendance recording the choir when Dr. King showed up. They left the recorder running when he made these speeches. You can hear them both in this week's podcast.

Very timely given that September 15 is the anniversary of bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

In Season 3, Shelley sets the record straight on the "Movement" and how only the media and politicians called it the "Civil Rights Movement." It was, and is, a Movement for the freedom of all people.

Please listen, and if you are so moved, share it with others.

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The Plantation Ghost

Today Shelley shares an interview from 1995 with Ezekwa Abdullah. Ezekwa argues that Blacks still repress themselves and suffer a form of psychological slavery in the collective subconscious psyche because attitudes of repression have been preserved and passed from one generation to the next. The ghost of the plantation exists today because not enough has been done to condemn this point of view.

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Free By Choice Inmates Share Their Stories

Today, Shelley replays an interview from the Free By Choice program, which brought inmates from Alabama prisons on the air to speak openly about their crimes and the decisions which led to them. These Free By Choice inmates had a strong desire to share their stories so their suffering could serve to help others avoid making the same mistakes.

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