Lead young or give a young person the opportunity to do so

#Leadyoung by Coumba Toure


I keep fond memories of my time in the Lycee Blaise Diagne more than twenty years ago our school is still surrounded by flower sellers. In the small quarters were two big buildings by the time. I remember being the only girl riding a bike to school. It was a red bike.

When I started junior high in we had a very interesting English teacher. I cannot remember her name but she seemed to be out of the box. She came a couple of time to give is class and then disappeared. Everything we did or say did not result in her coming back or a new teacher being sent to us.

When it was English class time, we took care of ourselves, we were free to roam in and out of school, and we went to our friend’s houses not far from the school.

We were also on strike every year for at least one month every year. There was even a year when we were on strike from January to the end of the year and we end up having all to retake that year. I even had enough time to write my first novel two hundred and thirty two page of science fiction. Most people who had financial means sent their children to private schools.


On that first year of junior high because our English teacher was never present, a small group of us started gathering and we created an English club to teach ourselves and this mainly trough songs. Not long after the creation of our club a larger club Padec decided to organize a gathering of all English clubs of Senegal and our little group was invited.

We must have been cut with our little group of twelve and thirteen years old. Aboubacar and Alpha, the Thiam brother’s leaders of Padec took us under their wings and it changed everything for many of us. When we join this larger club I started learning more English through films, theatre etc.… And I was involve that summer in organizing a summer course for children and adolescents from the district of Patte D’oie and Grand Yoff and Cité millionaire I was in charge of children who just finished primary school and would do their first year of English the next year.


I was so proud of being this little teacher of kids only one or two years younger even some my own age

I had to prepare to teach my English classes so I had to learn more to be a good teacher. I used different techniques; music and stories were at core of it.


The most important thing was that I learnt to communicate to organize, to do outreach to get students, to be part of coordination meetings, to plan for activities, to interact with parents.

Even though this was not the sole reason for my later engagements. This was one beginning. We create later ASCA an African cultural organization that didn’t survive and I join the Panafrican student movement as we dreamt to create the United States of Africa from the ground up. After that I never stopped.

Later as young person I worked with feminist organizations, with alternatives education organizations. To this day at the core of everything I do lays the skills, the contents and the connections I acquired through serving and working being with mentors.   It is a precious gift for every young person the opportunity to create, to act, to try and to fail, to succeed and to be supported.

When we lead young everything we give comes back multiplied by the hundreds. So lead young or give a young person the opportunity to do so.






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Je t’aime

Je t’aime


Laisse moi te dire encore une fois

Je t’aime

Laisse moi te le chuchoter au creux de l’oreille

Laisse moi te le dire encore

Et te serrer contre moi

Toi et moi seuls

A l’abri de regards jaloux

Laisse moi te dire

Je t’aime

Avant que tu sois trop grand pour entendre

Avant que les vents ne soufflent trop fort

Avant que la terre ne tremble

Avant que le soleil ne se couche

Avant qu’il ne soit trop tard

Laisse moi te dire je t’aime avant même que tu ne vois le jour

Coumba Toure

(extrait de  L’art de naître)

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Poème Toi et Moi



Toi et moi

Depuis les tous premiers moments

Nos vies séparées

Nos destins liés

Nous marchons ensemble

Les mains dans les mains

Pendant que le temps nous éloigne

Nous regardons résolument vers l’avenir

Toi et moi

Depuis les premiers instants

Nous créons de nouvelles chansons

Pour dire au monde notre joie de vivre


Toi et moi

Nous dansons souvent

Depuis les tous premiers moments.

Coumba Toure

(extrait de  l’art de  naître)

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How are you Mama Africa ? I am fine I see butterflies

Greetings mama Africa

How are you?

I am here

 How are your people?

They are fine. They have no sorrowsI mean, there are some women, men, young women, young men, and children suffering but rising up, and demanding justice, fighting to get their voices heard.

You know it is my people’s turn to rise again. This is a good time for anyone who wants to invest in the future of the world to invest in my people.

Yes! My people are reading, learning, leading, growing, and working. They are hard to catch up with. It is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time.

My people are re-learning to love who they are. They are growing new senses of identity, celebrating their diversity, their languages, their songs, their fabric, their hair, their skin, their literature, their values. My people are today their own healers, lovers, givers, guides, leaders, changemakers.

How are you Mama Africa?

I am here

 How are your children?

They are doing fine. They are growing in all the senses of the word, in numbers, in strength, in knowledge, growing faster than I can handle it.

I mean, they could be better off. Many are still being hurt and some are hurting each other, specially my girls.

I am still loosing too many children from very curable diseases, from malnutrition, from preventable accidents. I am loosing too many of them to violence. Also from the violence of poverty, from the violence of lack of opportunity and hope, from the violence of ignorance, but I am celebrating everyone of their success. As they are connected to my nerves and I know their names. They are my children, remember, each one of their lives matters to me wherever they are.

I am growing new hands, hands to touch them and to give them love, to embrace them.

My children are growing into an alert generation, increasingly demanding for better governance and accountability, for new forms of leadership. I am witnessing my youth rising and I shiver when the dangers lurk towards them.

Greeting Mama Africa?

How are you?

I am here

 How are your women?

My women are doing fine. They are beautiful, powerful, feminist, artist, activist changemakers, they are creating new pathways, giving birth to new worlds.

I mean: they are still hurting, even in their homes, work places, in the hands of family, strangers, under the threats of religions, arms dealers. They are hurting in an economy only built for a few to have much more than they will ever use.

My women are struggling, having to compete with the biggest investors even in the smallest rural market places.

My young women are taking over, developing new technologies, changing the meaning of leadership, so everyone can be a changemaker, so everyone can have the opportunity and the capacity to make change happen, to push the order of injustices and build truly robust movement to achieve revolutionary changes.

How are you mama Africa?

I am here

 How are your men?

They are fine. They are handsome, they are strong.

I mean, they are also struggling, they are not exempt. They suffer from the same violence of guns and injustices.

They are quickly loosing so many privileges, traditional ones, modern ones without any warning, some of them getting restless, angry and even deranged by it.

Many catching up to accept women being powerful and children smarter that their parents. They are coming back from migration, as Europe did not live up to his promises, as bankruptcy creeps in every home.

They have been sending more money than any aid or government program has ever provided and they are ready for a new world to be born.

They are reconstructing philanthropy.

How are you Mama Africa?

I am here

How are your rivers? Your lands? Your forests? Your animals?

They are fine. They are still abundant. There is enough for all, at least enough sun, enough wind for all of us.

I mean: they are getting lost every day, a lot is gone, forests clear cut to be just burnt for basic fire, animals disappearing, the blind following a trend that we know has not worked for the other parts of the world.

My lands are saying don’t grab me like that. It makes no sense at this day and age to waste so much of our natural resources.

My lands, my forests, my rivers, my animals are struggling. They have been leached on, sucked on for centuries.

Many flows of riches into the world are still through my open veins and my blood still fuel the west.

My lands are calling on women and children of the earth to be their advocate, as most of my people know there are more simple ways to be.

How are you mama Africa?

I am here

How are your institutions?

They are fine.

They growing stronger with time, adapting to realize their full potential

I mean: They are recovering from the confusions of their profound destruction, from the schizophrenia of past, present, traditional and modern frameworks, from the paranoia of being used against my own people.

They still have some weak governance, some poor leadership and management styles in business, in government and the development sector can still be so oppressive.

And sometimes even the places where we hope for the best in the feminist movement they are facing many challenges, sometimes mirroring the oppression they are fighting against.

How are you mama Africa?

I am here

 How are your leaders?

They are fine. They look so good on posters.

I mean: they are struggling to choose between just taking their cut out of the killing of my people or dying as martyrs in the hand of corporate bandits, under democratic government disguises.

Some are working to join the new forms of leadership multi-headed, hard to destroy or weaken so that when their work is done people will say we did it ourselves.

My leaders are challenged by the rising of Christian and Muslim fundamentalism. They are challenges by many extremism, conflicts, persistent harmful traditional practices and unfair interventions by externals political and military powers.

How are you? Mama Africa

I am here

 How are your friends and helpers, your partners?

They are fine. They are doing great. They are supporting me as much as they can.

I mean, they often miss the point. Most often, they say they help me while helping themselves. You know about Overseas Development Assistance used to further the colonial agenda, facilitating the criminal commerce behind. Some are fighting for changes.

I don’t want to get to the details but it is hard to refuse or accept an aid you have no choice about, when the whole world knows better than you what you need.

How are you? Mama Africa

I am here.

I have no sorrow.

I mean, on my mind is sitting centuries of slavery, colonial rule, force labor, hand cuts, violence, expropriation. Sometimes, I have a hard time remembering who I am

Yes! What should I do with myself after so many rapes and it is continuing in a legal form of unjust commerce done on the back of my children, my women; the winners are always the same.

My body carries all the scars and still, many of my cuts are bleeding, it is hard to heal when the hurts are often reopen, even sometimes by people who are trying to be just helpful.

My children are still separated; I am trying to make them understand they are members of same body. But I am doing fine because I can see butterflies like you

Can you see butterflies?

Can you see butterflies?

Colors and movements

In this moment

Butterfly flying around in all beauty

So many butterflies like you

Lend me more eyes to see you

So many more butterflies

Coming out

Butterflies in gestation

In metamorphosis

Living in fragility

In danger

Who will protect them?

I am fine I have no sorrow

I know new times are coming

For a humanity

Where poor, women, blacks are human,

I am fine I have no sorrow

I am just yearning

For love

For tenderness

For respect

For simplicity

For generosity

I am fine

Smiling, crying, moving.

I am here

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Dans vos mains / In your Hands

-Ma mère qui est enseignante m’a dit un jour, Enseigner c’est un beau métier mais c’est un métier dangereux

-dangereux ?

– Les enfants portent en eux un karma puissant qui peut détruire ta vie si tu ne t’occupes pas bien d’eux.

Aux enseignants, je dirais tout simplement « nous sommes dans vos mains ». Nous sommes dans vos mains, ce continent Africain est dans vos mains parce que nous vous confions ce que nous avons de plus cher. Nous vous demandons de les aimer, puisqu’il est maintenant prouvé que l’affection rend intelligent. Nous vous demandons beaucoup, nous vous demandons de donner à nos enfants ce que vous-mêmes des fois vous n’avez pas reçu.

Nous vivons dans un monde où tout change très rapidement. Nous vous demandons de préparer nos enfants à pouvoir fonctionner dans un futur que vous comme nous ne pouvons deviner. Il ne s’agit pas seulement de leur apprendre à lire, à écrire et à compter, cela nous le voulons bien mais en plus nous vous demandons de leur apprendre surtout être profondément humain, à pouvoir guider leurs parents. Nous vous demandons de leur apprendre à imaginer des solutions pour les problèmes qui vont surgir dans le futur. C’est beaucoup vous demander mais nous n’avons que vous pour le faire.

Nous reconnaissons que nos systèmes éducatifs traversent une grande crise. Durant la crise Ebola, lorsque le monde a compris que le nombre de malades dépassait le nombre de lits et le nombre de médecins disponibles, l’on a crié à l’urgence comprenant qu’il fallait agir rapidement.

Nos systèmes éducatifs sont dans un état d’urgence, tant d’enfants qui souffrent dans les rues et même dans les écoles. Les besoins sont criards en enseignants compétents et aimants, en matériel de qualité et en institutions adéquates dans des pays à populations très jeunes. Pour gérer une telle situation nous avons besoin que chacun s’engage pour apporter des solutions dans l’éducation ainsi, les parents, les grands-parents, les retraités, les jeunes doivent soutenir les éducateurs innovateurs et courageux qui travaillent sans relâche pour qu’ensemble nous transformions l’expérience d’être un enfant ou un jeune Africain en 2015.

Une adaptation de mon discours présenté à Ségou le 21 février 2015 en présence du gouverneur de la région de Ségou, du maire de la ville de Ségou et du directeur de l’académie d’enseignement, des enseignants lauréats du prix d’excellence “Ciwara Lisent” des membres de l’académie des champions et du Duc Yoga club de Dakar, des membres de l’Institut pour l’éducation populaire , d’Ashoka Fellow Boubacar Doumbia du Ndomo des enseignants et les représentants de l’école Ciwara école source de changements .

My mother who is a teacher once told me, teaching is a great job but it’s a dangerous one

-Dangerous how? I asked

– Children carry within them a powerful karma that can destroy your life if you do not take good care of them.

To teachers, I would just say, “We are in your hands.” We are in your hands, the African continent is in your hands because we entrust you what we hold most dear, our children. We ask that you love them, since it is now proven that affection make us smarter. We ask a lot from you, we ask you to give our children what yourselves once have not received.

We live in a world where everything changes very quickly. We ask you to prepare our children to be able to function in a future you like us cannot even guess. We ask you not just to teach them to read, write and count, but in addition to it we ask you to teach them to be deeply human, to gain the capacity to guide their parents. We ask you to give them the capacity to imagine solutions for the problems that will arise in the future. It’s a lot to ask but we can only ask it of you.

We recognize that our educational systems are in deep crisis. During the Ebola crisis, when the world realized that the number of patients exceeded the number of beds and the number of available doctors, we all shouted to the emergency actions.

Our education systems are in a state of emergency, too many children are suffering in the streets and in schools. The needs for competent and loving teachers, quality equipment and adequate institutions are blatant in our countries with very young populations. To handle such a situation we need everyone to commit to provide solutions in education, everyone to be changemaker. We need parents, grandparents, retired folks and young people to join the brave an innovative educators who work tirelessly and together we will change the experience of being an African child in 2015

An adaptation of the speech I gave in Segou February 21, 2015 in the presence of the Governor of the Segou region, the mayor of the city of Segou and the representatives of the ministry of education, the winners of Excellent Teacher Award « Ciwara lisent » members of “Academie des champions”, the Dakar University Club Yoga, members of the Institute for Popular Education, Ashoka Fellow Boubacar Doumbia founder of Ndomo, and representatives of the Ciwara Changemaker school.






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Memories of Thailand

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1996 Selma excerpt from Conversations across the waters a work in progress by Malika Sanders Fortier Coumba Toure

Dear sister Malika
Do you remember my first time visiting the United States of America? Almost twenty years ago, we came straight from Mali. We landed in Atlanta and we drove to Selma Alabama. Today when I tell people I am going to Selma they say what? Where? Why? I know that trip was among the most defining travel in my life.
It was in March of 1996 and it was cold for me. I had travelled mainly within Africa; I did countries like Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and South Africa I think. I had been to Beijing in China. I had been jailed on the way to China in the Canaries Island in Spain because I didn’t have a transit visa for Paris. That’s a different story…
Remember 1995 was the world conference on women in Beijing. I know that trip brought everything together for me in my feminist engagement. I was a militant of pan African youth organization with the dream of creating the United States of Africa but it was the trip to Selma that clarified my pan African engagement. Do you remember it was twenty-two of us? The youngest must have been 15 one of teenager in our program and the oldest more than 60 retired schoolteacher. We travelled with teachers, community workers, musician; we had farmers, people from different religions and faith, people with disabilities. We were very intentional in forming the group. We wanted to take a diversity of age ethnic groups, social origins, and occupation. We wanted a diversity of perspective on African identity outside of Africa.
In the US we came fist to Selma, to jubilee, we visited many states. I remember your mother driving one of the vans for days. We did many states and cities in the South—Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Louisiana. I remember Morehouse College in Atlanta and a visit we did with organization of young men who worked on violence against women. You know I fell in love with them. I still remember certain faces…
I remember farmers’ cooperatives and I remember the discussion on organic food. As we had conversation with people at that time in the south working on that subject, it was incredible to some of the farmers in our group. The contradiction was so stunning: pesticides were pushed in West Africa even on farmers who only knew organic food and were considered backward because of it.
We met with writers like Gloria Naylor, your mother’s friend. How is she now? I looked at her where she was living, in this remote house and I though this is what I need to do. Write. This is the kind of place I would like to be in. Peace.
We went to many churches, we experienced the intensity of prayers and faith, the beautiful song, people so dress up but also the tradition of organizing in the church. We visited schools the Mac Rae Learning Center and your grandmother managing it strongly.
We went to colleges and universities. Tuskegee University stood out. Our jaws drop as we learned about the deliberate inoculation of syphilis that was done on black people and studying them as they died. I still can’t get over it and to tell the truth it make me understand why some of our people have paranoia. We learned about Booker T Washington and learn about Georges Washington Carver and peanut and I wondered if anyone from West African have ever heard of these none of in our group did before coming Selma.
I remember your mother holding my hand all the way to Spellman college and figuring out how to get me registered.
“I have to go back home” I said that was the agreement we had with the entire group I cannot be the one to break it. I will come back if necessary…
She understood. You are so smart she said you have to go to college …
We relearned about African identity outside of Africa , we understood better what slavery was we learn about Sojourner Truth and the Underground Railroad. We learned about the civil war in the US and about the confederate flag still showing up in the South in so many places.
We learned about segregation. We learned about Jim Crow laws and how it was detrimental to black people in the South. We learned about how people organized for so many years to get rid of it. We re-enact the Selma to Montgomery March we met with Reverend CT Vivian. We learned about freedom summer and the Mississippi voting right movement and met with Bob Moses. We learned about the tracking in the school and your work to fight it in Selma. We learned about the prison industrial complex, drug abuse, and gangs. We met with Diane Nash witht he Amelia Boynton…
We listen to your music to your poetry. We learned about the political system in the US. We saw people, honoring families , supporting each other in times of hardship, carrying many values that made sense to us as Africans living on the continent.
So many things that were so far from everything we know or heard about our sisters and brothers from in The USA. This was the beginning of my education in African American studies.
Over the course of that month, we learned more than we could get from any universities and over the course of almost 20 years coming back regularly and having to translate for others ,young people, teachers etc.… I have learned a lot more. To this day I am learning every time I sit down with you or members of your community. Staying with you, with your sister and brother, with your parents and grandparents, I learned so much more. Our conversations have been part of my education.
We sang, laugh, cried with all of you and we realized we are one under the same sky. We shared with you about Africa today our countries our struggles our riches. Our languages we translated civil right song in Bahaman. We shared our culture we told you about our heroes and heroines Wee spoke about slavery and the destruction it did for family communities on the continent. We talk about colonial rules and the continuous exploitation and slavery like treatment that happen for so many years. We share about this time where even though we have got flags and political independence we are still deep into non-economical independence.
We talk about brain washing and the very little sense of self-esteem. We talk about traitors from our own communities—those who sold brothers and sisters to save them or to become rich. We understood that every generation has theirs. We asked hard questions—why this, why that?
We found some answers. We are still looking for many.
What we did discover from these exchanges is that you and I were cut from the same materials. That even if we came from far apart, we have similar visions of changing the world for the better.

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Grandir ensemble (extrait de l’art de naitre)

Grandir ensemble

Ensemble nous grandirons

Je guiderais tes premiers pas dans la vie

Tu me rappelleras les moments oubliés

où j’avais encore confiance

Je t’apprendrais les mots de passe

Et tu me diras les mots qui soignent

Me faire rire jusqu’aux larmes

M’émerveiller tant que tu apprends

Je te bercerais et te protègerai de tes peurs

Tu m’apprendras la résilience face à l’échec

Et tu me donneras le courage de continuer

Ensemble nous grandirons

Toi et moi

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Let our links be unbroken/Que nos liens soient incassables

Let our links be unbroken

Let them be

A web of positive thoughts,

Beautiful words and bold actions

Let them be

Invisible strings of kindness

Weaving our hopes, our desires

Que nos liens soient incassables

Qu’ils soient

Cette toile de pensées positives

de jolis mots et d’actions téméraires

Que nos liens soient

Des fils invisibles de bonté

Qui tissent nos espérances, nos désires

De libérer les enfants de nos grands enfants

De la peur

Et leur donne le courage et le droit

D’être heureux et donner le bonheur

d’oser la joie et la justice

De tomber et de rebondir

Dans des futures de paix

Que nos beaux liens s’affermissent avec le temps


Coumba Toure

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Pourquoi j’écris pour les enfants.

Depuis l’enfance, j’ai toujours aimé lire, écrire et m’amuser à fabriquer des livres pour raconter des histoires et faire de la poésie. L’écriture était même devenue mon salut durant mes années d’adolescence – un peu comme un refuge.

J’ai commencé à écrire pour les enfants alors que je travaillais pour l’Institut pour l’éducation populaire, institut de recherche en éducation basée à Kati au Mali qui œuvre pour la transformation du système éducatif en Afrique de l’Ouest. L’IEP cherche à développer des systèmes qui permettent aux enfants de tous âges d’apprendre et de penser de façon créative, et d’apporter des changements positifs dans leur pays et dans le monde. Devenir des acteurs de changement (changemakers). Nous avions besoin de matériel éducatif pour les enfants, de livres écrits dans les langues africaines et des livres qui transmettent nos valeurs positives Africaines. Ce besoin existe bel et bien encore aujourd’hui.

J’écris et je crée afin que les enfants africains puissent avoir des livres, des films, des jouets et des jeux avec des histoires auxquels ils peuvent s’identifier. Je produis des histoires avec des images et des noms qui leur permettent d’être noirs, africains, fiers de leur patrimoine culturel, fiers de leurs parents et de leurs ancêtres, et bien entendu porter le plus grand respect aux femmes. Ainsi, il est plus important, pour moi, de proposer des solutions aux problèmes auxquels ils font face.

J’écris et je publie pour que les enfants de la Chine, de l’Europe, des Amériques du nord et du Sud puissent grandir séduits par nos visages noirs, que nos noms d’africains les fassent rêver, j’écris pour que nos histoires les plongent dans la profondeur de nos pensées et de nos traditions.

Se connaître est la première étape vers le respect de soi, connaître l’autre est la première étape vers l’empathie, le respect et l’amour.

Enfant, j’ai appris le français et plus tard l’anglais. J’ai lu Blanche-Neige et Le Petit Chaperon Rouge. J’ai été fascinée par la culture occidentale, les valeurs et les façons de penser. A partir d’un très jeune âge j’ai appris à admirer, aimer et respecter ce que je n’étais pas. Heureusement que j’ai eu d’abord la chance d’aimer et de respecter ce que j’étais et mes parents ont insisté sur cela. Malheureusement, trop souvent et trop tôt l’on nous apprend à dévaloriser tout ce qui est Africain.

Il appartient donc aux artistes africains de s’assurer que l’Afrique est entendue, aimée et respectée.

Écrire des livres pour enfants est ma contribution dans la tâche ardue de transformer les perceptions et les stéréotypes dont nous faisons encore l’objet et que nous véhiculons aussi souvent et qui sont le terreau fertile du racisme, de la déshumanisation qui permet toutes sortes d’exploitations et de violence.

Au début, j’ai écrit pour les écoles, j’ai raconté des histoires et lu des textes créés photocopiées et distribuées aux élèves. Peu de temps après, j’ai publié mon premier livre, Les jumeaux de Diyakunda.

Mon éditeur Fatou Ndiaye Sow, une héroïne méconnue, une géante invisible, m’a présenter à Jane Cortez  puis emmené à  à New York University, Yari Yari Pamberi à la rencontre des femmes Africaines écrivaines, puis est elle décédée juste après –j’ai compris que je n’avais pas d’autre choix que de prendre le relais et de publier des livres pour enfants. Je suis encore ses pas et je compte aller plus loin, créer un environnement lettré pour les écoles, créer des jeux, des films et des dessins animés.

Aujourd’hui, je célèbre la publication de mon premier livre en anglais, Bama’s Twins, avec des peintures et des illustrations de Sidy Seck et une traduction par Yeshika Weerasekera. Auparavant, le livre Les Jumelles de Bama était en français et en Bama ka Filaniw en langue Bamanan.

Mon prochain livre, Twins of Diyakunda, a déjà été publié en français et en wolof. Une version anglaise de ce livre est actuellement en préparation avec des illustrations de Inse Armah. Il sera assez incroyable…

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