How Anyone Can Celebrate and Support Black Breastfeeding Week

by Jessica Martin-Weber with special guests Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, Waetie Saana Cooper Burnette, Dominique Bellegarde,Fortune Glasse Cotten
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Ameda, Inc.

Ameda Finesse Double Electric Breast pump

 

What if the risk of infant mortality was twice as high for one particularly vulnerable group? What if there was a simple measure to reduce infant mortality? What if there was a significant gap for the most vulnerable group in accessing that measure? Wouldn’t it be time to raise awareness and celebrate when it does happen?

 

To learn about BreastPowered and prepare for Black Breastfeeding Week, The Leaky Boob visited via Facebook livestream with Black Breastfeeding Week co-founder Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, CNM (read an interview with Anaya here) and part of the BreastPowered.org team, Waetie Sanaa Cooper Burnette, Dominique Bellegarda, and Fortune Glasse Cotten, winners of the MIT Hack My Pump-A-Thon 2018 Ameda Connections Award. These wise women shared practical ways anyone and everyone can prepare for, support, and honor Black Breastfeeding Week and celebrate black breastfeeding. See their suggestions below.

Photo Credit: Isreal Jean of Breastfeeding in Color.

 

How YOU can celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week

Anyone can celebrate black breastfeeding week and having the support of groups outside the black community is important too.

Inform yourself. Don’t understand why Black Breastfeeding Week is necessary?** Google and read what black women have said why this is important (start here) and then believe the experience of the black women that say this is necessary.

Share information promoting Black Breastfeeding Week on social media channels as well as in real life too.

Like and share images of black women breastfeeding. Representation matters, you can help celebrate black breastfeeding by helping make it visible. You never know when just seeing breastfeeding is all the encouragement someone needed to feel confident in their own breastfeeding journey.

Share your own story as a black mother and why this is important to you. If you’re not a black mother, share the stories of others and why this is important to you.  The more the information is out there, the more other mothers are reached and supported.

Do something through your own channels to show you are a black mom breastfeeding or that you support black breastfeeding such as one-a-day photo social media posts featuring black women breastfeeding (yourself or others).

Amplify the voices of black women sharing their stories, efforts to promote black breastfeeding, and taking steps for equity.

Attend Black Breastfeeding Week and black breastfeeding events in support- sometimes the biggest thing you can do is help make sure it is a full house.

Visit breastpowered.org, blackbreastfeedingweek.com, breastfeedingrose.org, and other organizations to find out how you can get involved and learn more.

Support an event even if you are not going in person by sharing and spreading word, donating, and volunteering.

Donate through BBW’s fundraiser to help events all across the USA through a $250 mini grant program run by Black Breastfeeding Week.

Photo Credit: Erin White

Larger Picture- Beyond One Week

Whatever your race, be a breastfeeding ally and ecstatic about those in your life breastfeeding! Be sure that anyone in your life that is breastfeeding knows for sure that you support them and you are not neutral. Not just as a one day/one week kind of thing but an all the time kind of thing.

Find your frontline- may be your work place, your family, your church, your social media, etc. and recognize where your power is and take a stand and put in the work wherever you are to be antiracism and fight for equity for all.

 

** Black breastfeeding week is about recognizing black women as humans and supporting black women in having all the basic opportunities and support that everyone should have. For more on why Black Breastfeeding was started, see here.

 

 

Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, CNM, MSN, MSEd is a nurse-midwife and innovative culture worker leveraging digital media to impact health and parenting. Clinically, she cares for women across the life span in Washington, D.C. Anayah also writes, speaks and consults with organizations on using social media to deepen community building and leverage social change. Anayah is a co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week, co-editor of Free to Breastfeed: Voices from Black Mothers(Praeclarus Press), and consultant with MomsRising

 

 

Waetie Saana Cooper Burnette’s undergrad studies focused on anthropology and gender. These studies laid a unique foundation for her work with Breastpowered.org collaborating with families, recruitment, resource-building, and student support with innovative programming, grant writing, and attention to all families receiving equitable access to services. She is excited to focus on expanding the ways that the worlds of art, story-telling, and public health awareness can fuel our efforts to increase funding for lactation services for women of color. Waetie Sanaa co-facilitates the weekly breastfeeding group at Codman Square Health Center with Jenny Weaver, writes a blog for the Vital Village site Daily Milk, and is excited to work as a ROSE Community Transformer.

 

Dominique Bellegarde is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) who has worked with Women, Infant & Children (WIC) for more than 10 years as a peer counselor helping mothers meet their breastfeeding goals from home and hospital visits to supportive text messaging and video chats. Dominique teaches a Breastfeeding class every other week at Codman Square Health Center for pregnant women and their partners. She also co-facilitates the well-known Baby Cafe at Codman Square Health Center. With a degree in human services, Dominique is currently pursuing becoming an IBCLC.

 

 

Fortune Glasse Cotten is a mother, attorney, and breastfeeding advocate. Her own experience birthing and exclusively breastfeeding her son has led her on this journey seeking to support other mothers of color. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. Fortune lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and son.

 

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Black Breastfeeding Week and Brittany’s Story

by Brittany Brown Marsh

My breastfeeding journey with Maxine started nearly two years ago. TWO YEARS! I decided to breastfeed years before I was pregnant. I used to work at a daycare center and the entire infant classroom including teachers came down with the stomach flu. Well not the whole room. One baby—the only breastfed baby—didn’t get sick. It was in that moment that I decided I was going to breastfeed all of my future children.

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While I was pregnant, I read so many articles and books on breastfeeding. I rarely came across anything written by a black woman. I found that odd, but I still wanted to breastfeed my baby! Nothing was going to stop me. Well when people learned that I was going to be breastfeeding, people expressed a wide range of emotions. Some were visibly angry with me for not choosing to formula feed my child. “How am I supposed to bond with your baby?” was a common question. My favorite reaction of all was “Who told you to do that? That’s a white people thing.” Really? Why would someone even say that to me? I really am glad I was determined to breastfeed because there was little outside support in the beginning.

Breastfeeding in the black community should be more prominent. I’m sure that it is convenient having formula, but it is so rewarding to have that bonding time with your child giving them the best possible nutrition. We need to educate black women on the topic of breastfeeding. The first question I get from other black moms should not be “what type of formula do you use?” and I should not get a look of disgust when I say that I am breastfeeding. Seriously, as long as my child is eating, what is the problem?

Black Breastfeeding Week is so important to me because it show me and others that WE DO THIS. We nurse our children too. We aren’t ashamed to nurse our children.

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Maxine is 23 months old now and is still nursing numerous times a day. No matter where we are, if she needs her milk, she gets her milk. Nursing a toddler is way different than nursing an infant because now she’s standing and dancing and flipping around while nursing. I see no end in sight and WE wouldn’t have it any other way. When she is ready, we will wean. Right now, we are completely content.

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I am a black woman who breastfeeds and I am proud!!

Editor’s Note: Brittany shares much of her breastfeeding journey on her Instagram, @BrittBrownMarsh, including this sweet video of her breastfeeding Maxine.

-Brittany Brown Marsh
Brittany is a twenty-something Old Dominion University Communications major with a focus in Professional Communications. She graduated from Tidewater Community College in December 2012 and received an Associates of Science Degree in Business Administration. Brittany is married and welcomed her first child in September 2013.

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Newsletter: I Was Doing It Wrong-Size DOES Matter!

 

 

Evenflo-Feeding-Brand-Ad_25AUG15

 

Dear Leakies,

Size matters! See a HUGE difference! You can improve your satisfaction by 100%! See immediate results!

(Size matters unless we’re talking the bellies of women, then what matters is knowing when it’s appropriate to ask a woman if she’s pregnant. Carrie explains here.)

I know what you’re thinking… but no, I’m not talking about some little blue pill or new performance enhancing product (though you can read about exploding penises on Beyond Moi this week and more further down in the newsletter). This is way more fun than sex: we’re talking about breast pump flanges.

My definition of fun has a direct link to lactation about 90% of the time. I don’t understand why this is not normal for everyone.

(Next week we kick off a month in September talking about keeping our kids safe with #TLBsafeKids.)

Five years ago I learned that for my previous 4 babies I had been using the wrong size flanges for my breasts when I was pumping. Years of pumping that was painful all because I didn’t know I needed a different size flange! Then, when I did get the right size for me, not only did pumping NOT hurt, I got way more milk.

My mistake had cost me and my baby precious milk.

All that time I had no idea!

Whatever your reason for pumping your breastmilk, be it for your baby while you’re away from them at work, for the occasional date night, or for another baby through milk donation (if you’re a donor, this letter is for you), the right size flanges matter and can make a huge difference.

Not sure if you are using the right sizes? See this video from Shari Criso, IBCLC made available from our friends at Evenflo Feeding. And if that is helpful, be sure to check out Evenflo’s Facebook page and Shari’s Youtube channel. They’re going out of their way to support every family in reaching their feeding goals and to do so comfortably and confidently in their journey. If you’re looking for products that aid you in that journey, Evenflo may have just what you’re looking for here.

(Also, don’t miss out on this collection of pumping tips from Snugabell with The Leaky Boob family.)

Giveaway time! This is the last week of World Breastfeeding Month and while over here in TLB land we’re going “woohoo! World Breastfeeding Month! Wait… it’s always World Breastfeeding Month here…”, it is exciting to see so many voices talking about supporting women in reaching their breastfeeding goals one month of the year. Thankfully, there are those who continue supporting such efforts the other 11 months of the year. TLB has teamed up with several of those brands to bring you the WBW2015 Wrap Up Giveaway with over $2,200 in prizes. Find the secret code word entry option lower in our newsletter (you’ll have to really read closely to find it!) and spread the word because while every month is World Breastfeeding Month to us, it only captivates the world’s attention one month a year.

Happy Breastfeeding and Happiest of Pumping! Thanks to Evenflo Feeding for supporting The Leaky Boob and our community with their sponsorship. The information and community they provide as every baby’s advocate and every parents ally is invaluable. We’re grateful for their participation in our community.

I leave you with this: the funniest breastfeeding-related post on the internet this week is in the private TLB community group on Facebook. Be prepared to cry laughing when you read this.

Check out the rest of our Newsletter HERE. Not a subscriber? Click HERE and join to receive the newest advice, support and encouragement every week for EVERY stage of parenting and lifestyle.

Peace,

Jessica Martin-Weber
Founder, TheLeakyBoob.com

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Why Black Breastfeeding Week Is Important To Me

by Carmen Castillo-Barrett

Carmen Black Breastfeeding Week

I am an immigrant Dominican mother, with African American roots on my father’s side. My husband is of Caribbean decent. We got pregnant with our daughter in 2006. The almost 42-week pregnancy allowed my husband and I time to explore and talk to each other about parenting. We decided we were going to do things differently than how the rest of our family did them simply because it’s what works for our family. We expected to be met with lots of questions and lack of understanding as to why we were doing things differently, but I was certainly not prepared for the ongoing negativity that was associated with our decision for me to breastfeed. I am not the only one who shares this experience. Below are just some of the reactions I got and reasons why Black Breastfeeding Week  is important.

1- “You’re going to kill your baby”
At four weeks postpartum, my mother-in-law began to express concern over the fact that all my newborn had to eat was breast milk. I’d done enough research while pregnant to know that breast milk is all an infant needs, but the research never heeded any warning about being confronted with the accusation that I was going to kill my baby by exclusively breastfeeding. My mother-in-law’s concern was real to her because she didn’t know any better. She called relentlessly, offering bad advice that wasn’t solicited, all while expressing concern that there was no way my daughter has getting the nourishment she needed. This was the most significant obstacle I’ve faced as a nursing mother and it ultimately undermined my confidence and affected my decision to discontinue nursing my daughter.

2- “You’re still breastfeeding?!?”
This question started popping up around the time both kids turned 6 weeks old. Both sides of our family saw no need to continue nursing past six weeks of age and thought that the natural progression of things was to introduce formula. My mother had no experience nursing a baby past trying it out for a couple of weeks with me, so her contribution to my growth as a breastfeeding mother was to state that the baby was now “old enough for formula” and I was now “finally free” to stop breastfeeding. There was no real reason why everyone thought I should wean, it was simply a matter of never having seen a non-white mother nursing past the immediate infancy phase.

3- “What? You can’t afford formula?”
When my daughter was two months old, we went out to lunch with my husband’s cousin and his wife, whom had two children of their own. While at the restaurant, my daughter needed to eat, so I discreetly breastfed her at the table. No one at the table batted an eye, but just as I was feeling confident that my nursing in public wasn’t a big deal, I was met with the question of “Why are you still breastfeeding? You guys can’t afford formula?”. I was so mad! Worse still is that when I called my mom about it, she felt the comment was perfectly justified and offered to send me money for formula. Somehow, my breastfeeding was seen as a reflection of our economic status rather than a conscious decision on how to feed our baby.

4- “You’re just trying to be white.”
A common way to dismiss a non-white mother’s parenting choices is to wave them off as her “trying to be white”. This comment is applied to much more than breastfeeding. If you are a non-white mom who co-sleeps, uses cloth diapers, has a home birth, employs a doula, teaches your baby to sign, or does anything outside of the “normal” things a non-white mom is “supposed” to do, then your parenting choices aren’t seen as something that simply works for your family, but a desire to leave behind your true roots to pursue one’s desire to emulate a white mother. This label is applied to non-white women of all shades as a means to shame, ignore, undermine, second guess, disrespect, and pigeonhole our choices to parent as best as we can.

5- “Your baby has teeth, that means it’s time to wean.”
By the time my daughter got her first tooth at 9 months, I was no longer nursing. My son, on the other hand, started getting teeth really early at barely four months old. I made the unfortunate mistake of posting a picture of him grinning with his new itty bitty baby teeth on Facebook. The immediate and overwhelming response from both sides of the family (and some friends) was that it was time to wean because “obviously” his incoming teeth meant it was time for “real food”. Up to this day I’m still unsure what “real food” I was supposed to feed a baby that young.

6- “You’re going to turn him gay.”
While it’s a scandalous thing to say to anyone, this last comment is particularly held as true among Caribbean families. Due to bigotry embraced by both older and younger generations and stubborn cultural superstitions, many Caribbean families believe that one can be “turned” gay and that nursing one’s son past a certain acceptable age will contribute to their sexual orientation. The lack of support and obstacles I faced when nursing my daughter were nothing compared to the outright hatred that the possibility of me nursing my son into a batty boy brought out in members of our family. This is why, after 7 months of exclusively nursing my son, I started pretending that I had weaned him. Only my husband and close friends knew that I was still breastfeeding.

Imagine if your entire breastfeeding experience was framed by the comments I listed above. How successful do you think you could be? This is why Black Breastfeeding Week is so important.

Carmen Castillo-Barrett is a wife and mom who resides in Brooklyn, NY. She is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Kiddie Science.

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Iola Kostrzewski on Black Breastfeeding Week

by  Iola Kostrzewski

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Black Breastfeeding Week is not, I repeat, is not a week to have more of the white versus black argument. It’s not a week to get white women to notice black women breastfeeding, or even to get white women to acknowledge the fact that black women do breastfeed. It’s a week for us black women to bring awareness to other black women that, yes, we are in control of our bodies, that we need to no longer let historical trauma hold us back, that we need to have more free breastfeeding education classes and access to those classes.

Black Breastfeeding Week is bittersweet. It says, “Hey, there is enough of an issue that World Breastfeeding Week is no longer cutting it.” If anything it’s a black versus black week; it’s about trying to change the outlook on the breastfeeding from within the black community.  We need to do whatever we need to do to raise the rate of black women breastfeeding.

From the time Black Breastfeeding Week was announced, I have seen women who call themselves breastfeeding advocates make some of the most racist comments I have ever seen written by anyone who claims to promote breastfeeding. I have seen women who have had nurse-ins, who stand up for the rights of nursing mothers, argue that there is no need for this week. They argue that the week, even though black women created it, is racist.

Let’s stop, gather our thoughts, and breathe.

Let’s also take the time to remember that this week is not about whites versus blacks.

Yes, I understand that there was a World Breastfeeding Week a few weeks ago that is supposed to promote equality for women of all races who breastfeed. Yet how can we have equality when the statistics show that black women are lagging behind when it comes to breastfeeding? We cannot be equal until all women are on the same playing field.

No matter how hard I try to understand, I don’t understand how this week is offensive.

What’s offensive is making the comment “Black women are just lazy” or “Black women just don’t use their mind” after reading explanations about why this week is needed.  What’s offensive is refusing to acknowledge your white privilege while continuing to ramble on about how, yes, you have had hard times when it comes to breastfeeding, but you got over it. What’s offensive is going on to question why there isn’t a “White Breastfeeding Week”.  Though, I sit here and wonder to myself how can you have a “white” week? Wouldn’t you mean a German, Norwegian, or Polish week?

What is mind-boggling is how a person can say she is color blind to race, yet follows that by saying, “I have a black friend who has mixed kids and she breastfed them.” How in anyway is that being color blind?

Yet this week is not about me versus you.

This week, in all reality, is Black vs. Black.  It’s about battling the misconceptions about breastfeeding in the black community, particularly in the United States.  It’s about being able to breastfeed in front of my mother without her cringing and saying, “That’s what slaves used to do.”  It’s about not being told by a black parenting group that the project I have been working on is too “explicit” and offensive to Jesus. Jesus was breastfed.

This week is about letting certain black celebrities know that milk sharing and wet nurses are not just things that slaves did, and that a 150 years later it’s done by free will. This week is about letting black women know that if we work together we can make a change.

So, instead of saying this week isn’t necessary, tell me “I support you.”  Tell me that what I am doing is beautiful.

Many people I know don’t support breastfeeding at all. It isn’t celebrated in my culture.  Black Breastfeeding Week is helping to make it part of my culture. My friends and family, my neighbors and community leaders need to see breastfeeding as a normal part of life.  Help me make that a reality.

This week targets the population with the lowest breastfeeding rates overall.  Let’s work to bring those numbers up so we can all celebrate together.

It is my dream that in a couple years Black Breastfeeding Week will no longer be necessary.  My hope is that we can make enough of an impact together to close the statistical gap. This is something we need to do together.  Black women need to come together and show our community that breastfeeding is normal. And, we need the support of our friends of all colors and walks of life.

The author wishes to thank Amanda Jenson, who provided moral and editorial support for this piece.

Iola Kostrzewski is a wife, mother of two boys, babywearing educator, lactation educator in training, and an aspiring midwife.  Iola blogs at What the b**p and I doing?! .

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Black Breastfeeding Week: Interview with Cofounder Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka

by Kari Swanson

On August 25, 2013, the first day of the first nationally recognized Black Breastfeeding Week, I was excited to learn that one of the founding committee members, fellow breastfeeding advocate Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, recently moved to the area where I live.  Anayah is a mother of two, a graduate student, co-founder of Free to Breastfeed: Voices from Black Mothers and Brown Mamas Breastfeed and a MomsRising fellow.  After a virtual introduction we made arrangements to meet for lunch and Anayah graciously agreed to let me interview her for The Leaky [email protected]@b blog.

 

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Kari: Tell us about yourself and your personal breastfeeding experience.

Anayah: “I’m a mom.  I have 2 kiddos.  I’m a breastfeeding advocate.”

Kari: How did you become involved in breastfeeding advocacy?

Anayah: “I was nursing my oldest, now 3 years old, up all night in the early months and was intrigued by [breastfeeding]—it was so beautiful to me—and I wanted to know more about it, but outside of friends and family I didn’t see black women breastfeeding.  I wanted to talk to women who understand my life.”

In her search for like-minded women she was introduced to Jeanine Valrie.  Together Anayah and Jeanine created Free to Breastfeed: Voices from Black Mothers and the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project .  Initially the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project was created as a way to gather photos of black mothers breastfeeding, but Anayah and Jeanine discovered that the women who shared their photos were also interested in sharing their stories as well.  In part based on the research-supported assertion that narrative can be used to increase the number of women who breastfeed, they are currently expanding the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project into a book, which is forthcoming.

“This book could be good for moms in areas where they are actually in the minority.… [especially if] they do not have online social networks.”

Working with MomsRising also gives Anayah a platform around issues pertaining to race and class, especially as they relate to breastfeeding and families’ economic security.

Kari: What do you see as some of the challenges black women in particular face when it comes to breastfeeding?

Anayah: “When we deal with a larger culture that positions breastfeeding as something white women do—or at least something specifically not black [that is a challenge].  The larger narrative is about white women, so even physicians don’t address it. [For an African American woman], she hasn’t seen it growing up.  It’s not something she is exposed to… She either had people who said nothing or were openly hostile about it.”

Anayah related that in her own experience she was threatened with being thrown out of a pediatrician’s office, because she was breastfeeding her baby there.  Most of the women in her community did not breastfeed, so even the pediatrician’s office was not accustomed to seeing a woman breastfeed.

“African American women are at increased risk of diabetes and breast cancer and breastfeeding can address it.  Breastfeeding is one of the only things a woman can choose to do to decrease the risk of breast cancer, especially the type that overwhelmingly kills black women.”

“I don’t even think it’s important whether or not black women’s challenges are unique. That we face serious and life threatening health conditions of which breastfeeding offers some support at such high numbers is enough to warrant attention. In mainstream media, breastfeeding is still discussed as a lifestyle choice and for African-American families, it’s much more serious than that.”

Kari: Tell us about Black Breastfeeding Week.  Why do you care so much about this topic that you helped to create a nationally recognized awareness week for the subject?

Anayah: “Kimberly [Seals Allers] had written articles about World Breastfeeding Week, but there was no traction in the community—not much ethnic diversity.  So, she wrote this piece about greater diversity.  I read the piece and decided I had to ask her about it.”

Fast forward to the ROSE Summit in Atlanta where Kimberly Seals Allers (of Kimberly Seals Allers’ Mocha Manual), Kiddada Green (of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association), and Anayah met and decided to coordinate and launch Black Breastfeeding Week to bring attention to breastfeeding to their community.  Anayah pointed out that where “large campaigns can’t go deep enough” a more focused effort can.

“It’s not about physiology; it’s about social context,” she said.

Anayah described some of the historical social context related to breastfeeding among African American women, including the fact that black women have always worked outside of the home, quite often as domestic help for white families—caring for white children—and that formula was supposed to make it easier for them to be separated from their own babies.   In addition, a lack of support “across the board” contributes to low rates of breastfeeding among African American women.

Increasing the rate of breastfeeding among African American women will require “more than seeing some black faces sometimes.”  And it is vitally important to the lives of black women and their babies that the rate of breastfeeding be increased.

“Creating Black Breastfeeding Week was primarily about us raising greater awareness and pulling together forces among African-Americans for breastfeeding. We want to make breastfeeding part of other conversations we’re having on parenting and life in general, so we’re using this week to do it. The tweetchat on Thursday is a special effort that will help; when we have a major publication like Ebony.com and the top black bloggers supporting the conversation, we can reach more families than those who are already thinking and talking about breastfeeding.”

The first annual Black Breastfeeding Week is taking place this week, August 25-31.  For more information please visit:

Black Breastfeeding Week on Facebook

First Annual Black Breastfeeding Week announcement

Moms Rising Black Breastfeeding Week announcement

 

 

 

kariswansonTLB

Kari Swanson is a daughter, sister, wife, mother of two, librarian, member of Generation X and an admin for The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page.   Kari blogs occasionally over at Thoughts from BookishMama.

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