Joyceann’s Corner Episode 5 (Watson)

This is a series of profoundly gifted members of our community that have contributed much with no or little public recognition. We honor our own Today we share,

Barbara Mae Watson, (1918-1983) 

Barbara M. Watson, businesswoman, lawyer, government executive and diplomat, was born in New York City on November 5, 1918. She was the daughter of James S. Watson, the first black judge elected in New York State, and his wife, Violet Lopez Watson, one of the founders of the National Council of Negro Women. Barbara M. Watson was the sister of James Lopez Watson and the cousin of General Colin L. Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State.  

After graduating from Barnard College in 1943, she took a job as an interviewer for the United Seamen’s Service. In 1946, she founded a modeling agency and charm school, Barbara Watson Models, serving as the agency’s executive director until 1956. 

Watson served as coordinator of Student Activities at Hampton Institute. Upon graduation from New York Law School in 1962 she worked as an attorney with three New York City government agencies; the Board of Statutory Consolidation of the City of New York, the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, and as director of the New York City Commission to the United Nations.   

Watson joined the United States Department of State in 1966 as special assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration. She then became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Security and Consular Affairs and served as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Security and Consular Affairs from 1966 to 1968.  

She was the first black Assistant Secretary of State and the first woman to serve as Assistant Secretary of State. 

In July 1968, President of the United States Lyndon Johnson nominated Watson as Assistant Secretary of State for Security and Consular Affairs and, after Senate confirmation. She held this office from August 12, 1968. She left her State Department post in November 1974, when President Ford accepted her resignation. The Nixon Administration had sought earlier to replace Miss Watson, a Democrat, with a Republican appointee.  

At the beginning of 1975, Watson took a job with Walter Annenberg’s Triangle Publications as a legal consultant. She also lectured at several colleges and universities.  

In January 1977, President Jimmy Carter asked Watson to return to the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs; her second stint in this office lasted from April 13, 1977 until August 17, 1980. President Carter then appointed Ms. Watson United States Ambassador to Malaysia; she presented her credentials on September 25, 1980 and held this post until March 1, 1981. 

Watson died February 18, 1983 in Washington, D.C. at the age of 64. Secretary of State George P. Shultz said in a statement that the department was ”deeply saddened” by her death. He added that she was ”public servant of unusual dedication and distinction.” 

”Her long service as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs and her recent tour as Ambassador to Malaysia made important contributions to American foreign policy,” the Secretary said.  

Miss Watson is survived by two brothers, James and Douglas, both of New York, and a sister, Grace, of Washington. 

Submitted to BlackPast.org 1-20-15 

I hope you enjoyed this segment and Thank you for listening, Till next time when we honor: Bernadette M. Allen, (1955-) “Ambassador-Designate to Niger to Work for Prosperity, Security.”

Joyceann’s Corner Episode 4 -(Brown)

This is a series of profoundly gifted members of our community that have contributed much with no or little public recognition. We honor our own

Today,

We honor

Gayleatha Beatrice Brown (1947-2013)  

On July 2, 2009 President Barack Obama appointed Gayleatha Brown to be the United States ambassador to Burkina Faso.  Brown was born in Matawan, West Virginia on June 20, 1947.  Her family moved to New Jersey when she was a child and she graduated from Edison High School, in Edison, New Jersey in 1964. She received BA and MA degrees with honor from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1968 and 1970 respectively.  Brown has also conducted post-graduate work in international relations at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Before joining the United States Department of State, Brown was a Special Assistant in the Agency for International Development (USAID). She was later Assistant Administrator for Africa and a legislative assistant to the House of Representatives. She also held the position of Representative and Finance and Development Officer at the U.S. Embassies in Paris, France and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire respectively. 

Before being named ambassador Ms.Brown had extensive background within the State Department including positions as the Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, U.S. Consul General and as the U.S. Deputy Permanent Observer (concurrently) to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.  She also held the office of Chief of Economic and Commercial Sections at the U.S. Embassies in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

Brown also has represented the Department of State at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Export Credit Arrangement negotiations as Desk Officer for the U.S. Export-Import Bank (EXIM) in the Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB).   

Brown’s honors and recognitions include: Lady of the Golden Horseshoe (West Virginia state academic honor) and charter member of the New Jersey Edison Township High School Alumni Hall of Fame. She also received two Department of State Superior Honor Awards, a State Department Meritorious Honor Award and a Presidential Meritorious Service Award. She is an honorary member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority and Sandown Rotary Club in Johannesburg, South Africa.  She was also among the first women members of the Rotary Club in Tanzania. 

 
Ambassador Brown was fluent in English, French and Swahili. She was a member of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and was associated with the Community Church of Iselin, New Jersey.  
 
Ambassador Brown passed Friday, April 19,2013, at the JFK Medical Center, Edison, N.J. at the age of 65. Her mother Nellie and brother Curtis Brown survive her.

I hope you enjoyed this segment and Thank you for listening, Till next time when we honor

Barbara M. Watson, United States Ambassador to Malaysia

Revelations through Research Pg 2

Hatter, Maria (F, 23): Free Negro Register
African American Narrative Digital Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.
Source
Albemarle County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1799-1870 ca.
Hatter, Tucker (M, 4): Free Negro Register
Maria’s boy

Index to “List of Free Negroes over the age of Twelve years in the Corporation of Staunton June 4 1851”
Cathran Anderson F -washwoman
Eveline Alestuck -house servant
Henry Bird M -carpenter
June Bird F
Rebeca Baldwin F — Washwoman
Patsy Brean -bound
Lusy Brean -house servant
Charles Brean -bound servant
David Brown- apprentice to shoemaker
Ben Brock M -labor
Clary Brock F
Robert Campbell M -barbor
Murial Campbell F
Mary Jane Campbell F
Charlot Campbell F
William Campbell M
Luis Campbell M
Thomas Campbell M -barber
Lora Campbell F
John H Fergenson -blacksmith
Hugh Gaunt -blacksmith
Jefferson Hall -labor
Thomas Kinney -plaseter
Charles Prean-carpenter
Aron Shovler -shoemaker
Frances Hatter — Washwoman
Nancy Henry -house servant
Jane Luis -washwoman
Lucinda Lukis-washwoman
Caroline Kinney (Alias Kenney) -washwoman
Margaret More -washwoman
Ann More -washwoman
Sally Morris -washwoman
Carline Moler -washwoman
Mary Tyry -house servant
William More
Sarah Yates -washwoman
Duffrey -boatman

Staunton (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1811-1861
1138036_0004_0002
Library of Virginia

Joyceann’s Corner – Revelations through Research

An interesting but heartbreaking case. Please note that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863,

The case of Andrew Hatter, Petition For Re-Enslavement, Albemarle County
May of 1863

Anderson Hatter sometimes called Andrew Hatter a free person of color,
supposed to be some thirty two or thirty three years of age, personally appeared in court and made application to the court to select Benjamin F Abell of the County of Albemarle, as his master, and to become a slave of the said Abell: and the court having examined the said Hatter, and the said Abell separately, and such other testimony as was introduced before it, in the presence of the attorney for the Commonwealth,
and being satisfied upon said examination, that no injustice was
done to the applicant, the said Hatter; that there has been no fraud or collusion between the parties, and that there is no good reason to the contrary, and that the said Benjamin F Abell is a person of good character, doth grant the application of the said Hatter, and doth hereby order and direct that the property in the said Anderson or Andrew Hatter shall, from this day, vest in the said Benjamin F. Abell, and that the rights and liabilities and condition of the said Hatter shall henceforth in all respects be the same as though said Hatter had been a slave.

Know all men to these presents that we Benjamin F. Abell and
John Burch are held and firmly bound unto the Commonwealth
of Virginia in the just and full sum of Two Thousand Dollars
to the payment whereof well and truly to be made we bind ourselves jointly
and severally, our joint and several heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents. Sealed with our seals and dated this twelfth
day of May in the year, 1863.
The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas Anderson
Hatter alias Andrew Hatter a free man of color has this
day made application to the Circuit Court of Albemarle county to select a
master and become a slave: And whereas the said Anderson alias Andrew
Hatter has chosen the said Benjamin F. Abell as his master, and the said
Court has satisfied and approved said selection: Now therefore if the said Anderson alias Andrew Hatter shall not hereafter become chargeable to any county or corporation in this Commonwealth, and the said Benjamin F. Abell shall pay the debts and liabilities of said Anderson alias Andrew Hatter existing prior to this date, then the above obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.

Sealed and signed by Benja [Benjamin] F Abell and
John Burch,
Witness, Ira Garrett

Two issues here; First, What were the conditions that caused Hatter to give up his freedom ( most likely family was enslaved and in order to remain with them this was the only option).- Second, Did the slave owner and the court know about the proclamation beforehand? (Most likely)

Reference: Hatter, Andrew: Petition For Re-Enslavement, Albemarle County 1863 American Narrative Digital Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

Award winning “Our DeWitty and Now We Speak”

for a Soft Copy Click here

For Hard Copy Click hereOur DeWitty Cover

I’m thrilled to share the news:
My book has been named a WINNER in the 2018 International AAHGS Book Awards Contest (IABA).

Our Dewitty is my second book referencing family, friends, and neighbors who collectively established the longest lasting Black Settlement in all of Nebraska.

In this book, I’ve focused on the Women and what they had to say since largely their voice has not been heard in most all accountings of the Homesteaders.

I do hope you enjoy reading about these strong women who were actually the backbone of the town and the families. Learn about their struggles, dreams, successes, and legacies.

Thank you,

JaGray

 

DeWitty-Audacious is now officially in the history of Nebraska

DeWitty Marker

What a wonderful time we all enjoyed!  The fellowship was just so amazing!

Last Monday, April 11, 2016, the Historical Marker was officially installed that celebrates the importance of the DeWitty African-American Settlement in a ceremony attended by close to 200 people. DeWitty was the longest lasting African-American, most successful rural settlement in all of, Nebraska.

Parked cars lined the side of the highway. Elementary and college students stood with bright eyes filled with interest and wonder. Many traveled from the various Ranches of the surrounding areas including Brownlee, Seneca, and Thedford. Valentine residents also came to learn, share and enjoy the greatness of the occasion.  This occasion was a culmination of a lot of research, phone calls, fundraising and reaching out to the families of the homesteaders and the Sand Hill communities.

The great Ladies of Brownlee prepared a scrumptious midday meal to be enjoyed after the ceremony in the Brownlee Community Center.  Sonny Hanna spearheaded a tour of the Sand Hills taking many of the descendants to the land their ancestors once made their homes and many were still interned there.

 

Emanuel buriel ground
Emanuel Burial Grounds

Emanuel foundation
Emanuel Home Foundation

Walker & Hatter property
View of Hatter and Walker Homesteads

Grandson & NLoopRiver
Grandson walking the land of his Ancestors

North Loop Pam
Beauty of the Sandhills in April

 

DSC_4420 Rev.Khadijah Matin gave the invocationDSC_4417

Stew Magnuson, author of Hwy 83, “The Last American Highway”, was the master of ceremony and spearheaded The Descendants of DeWitty Team (Catherine Meehan Blount, Joyceann Gray, and Marcia Thompkins) in the making of this dream come to fruition. The great folks at the Cherry County Historical Society and the Nebraska State Historical Society quickly approved the application for the marker. And so it began, raising the money, buying plane tickets, gathering up old photographs as the excitement increased daily until 17 descendants came from all over the country to reconnect with a place that feels like home! They came representing the homesteaders who many traveled over 1700 miles from Canada and more from Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia to settle in the Sand Hills taking advantage of the Homesteader Act of 1862 and the amended Kinkaiders Act of 1904.

What is so important about this community is the bond between African American homesteaders of DeWitty and their white counterparts in Brownlee. The two communities were very isolated back then and despite differences of heritage and beginnings, they enjoyed a civil and caring relationship that continues up to this day. “Something the rest of America should learn from” stated local resident Shelley Christiansen. Ron Lee also voiced his opinion: “As far as race relations…I will say this..there was not one single person there at that dedication ceremony who was anything different than anyone else. We were just all people celebrating a time in the past where everyone worked together, And, though we’re not neighbors now, land-wise or ownership of the land-wise, we’re still neighbors. Lyn & Bruce Messersmith, Bree & Martin DeNaeyer, Byron & Mary Eatinger,and Ann Manning-Warren to just name a few of who open wide the doors of hospitality.

Lyn & Bruce Messersmith, Bree & Martin DeNaeyer, Byron & Mary Eatinger,and Ann Manning-Warren to just name a few of who open wide the doors of hospitality.

In the audience were some students that were taught by Goldie Walker Hayes, goldies-classroomcropped-goldie-hayes.jpga renown teacher throughout the area. She is our maternal grandmother. They expressed their fond memories and shared so many pleasing stories of her grace, beauty,  teaching ability and her kindness. This was so heartfelt and enriching for us who lost her while we were just small children.

Catherine, the granddaughter of Hester and Charles Meehan, spoke of the homesteaders struggles and delights and recited a poem her Dad wrote at age 17, speaking of an old footbridge across the North Loop River.

20160411_110421 Yours truly, granddaughter of Roy and Goldie Hayes reminded the crowd: “Although the town was reclaimed by the land the legacy of the homesteaders carries on for they were a success!  This town was not a failure. It wasn’t an experiment; it didn’t wither away because people couldn’t handle the weather – it was a testament to their vision. Which is to set roots down in a foundation for educating their children and giving them a chance at the American dream.”  

We found our great grandfather, one of the original homesteaders 

 WILLIAM PARKER WALKERWilliam P. Walker Grave Stone William P. Walker’s burial plot in the Brownlee Cemetery.

20160411_105631
  Mother & Daughter Sharing the Experience

 

 

Charlotte Woodson (Granddaughter of Charlotte Riley Walker) with her daughter, Marcia Thompkins granddaughter of Boss Woodson, Rancher and Fernnella Walker Woodson, also a teacher in the county districts expressed her joy: “It WAS an awesome day!      We, the descendants, made great connections, saw pictures we hadn’t seen before, heard more stories from the warm and welcoming people of the community that we hadn’t heard before, toured the land, found our ancestors resting places… I could go on and on! My life has been enriched beyond expectation, and I am forever positively changed!”

Decedants of DeWitty2016

 

BackRow: Delbert DeWitty, (nephew of the Postmaster), Hershel Riley, Byron DeWitty, Artes Johnson& brother Maurice, (Grandson’s of Corena Walker- Williams) Garland Miles (Riley)  Middle Row: Rev. Khadijah Matin, (Granddaughter of Roy and Goldie Hayes) Catherine Meehan-Blount, Jacob & Leah Ferrell, 3x Great grandchildren of William P. Walker, William Pegg, (Grandson of Roy and Goldie Hayes), Emerald Miles (Riley,) Phyllis Brown Denise Brown (descendants of Radford Speese, older brother of Charles Speese.) Joyceann Gray, (Hayes and Walker descendant).  Seated front Row: Charlotte Woodson (Granddaughter of Charlotte Riley Walker) and her daughter Marcia Thompkins.

Browlee Community HallAnd so we  met back up at the Brownlee Community Center and ate a delicious meal and chatted and shared while Ann Manning-Warren gave us a trip down memory lane!

 

Words from Lyn Messersmith, whose family opened their homes to us: 4/27/2016

The Lay of the Land

By Lyn Messersmith 

Build It and They Will Come

They got it backward, but it worked. A group of  Canadian-born Black families, former slaves, and their descendants came to a desolate and lonely region in the Nebraska Sandhills and built a community they called DeWitty, later renamed Audacious. Six hundred and forty acres seemed like a lot; surely enough to survive on, perhaps even prosper. Prosperity probably wasn’t a concept they dwelt on, so much as survival. That’s how it was in those days, and you didn’t have to be Black to know hard times in the hills. There were neighbors who understood that and welcomed them. The little town of Brownlee, a dozen or so miles downriver, had amenities that served the newcomers until they established businesses of their own, and interactions continued in the form of competitions at rodeos, baseball games and Independence Day celebrations. Brownlee had a community hall, and DeWitty had music makers, so there were dances too.

DeWitty residents were strong for education, which eventually contributed to the demise of the community. Young people went away to college, became doctors, teachers, ministers, and writers and the elders finally drifted away too, but memories of those years lingered around Brownlee and became the legend as I was growing up nearby. My dad and his peers spoke names like Speese, Riley, Turner, Hayes, and Woodson, with admiration and respect.

Stew Magnuson, an author with Sandhills roots, has traveled Highway 83 many times and chronicled the people and places along that route in a series of books. He became fascinated by stories about DeWitty, and recently spearheaded a project to raise funds for a historical marker about it.

On April 11, 2016, nearly two hundred people gathered at the marker for a dedication. Descendants of DeWitty came from both coasts and everywhere in between, and my family was privileged to host several of them. Sandhillers traveled more than a hundred miles to honor our common roots, and the ladies of Brownlee and surrounding communities put on a “Y’all come” feed in that old community hall. The rancher who owns much of the ground where DeWitty stood organized a tour for those who cared to see where their ancestors had settled, and others uncovered buried grave markers in the Brownlee Cemetery for family members to photograph.

As our guests departed for various destinations, they said the weekend had given them closure, and they felt like they had, in some sense, come home. I felt closer to my own family and more proud than ever of my heritage and neighbors.

Many people snapped pictures during that celebration, but I carry mine in my head; of women carrying more chairs to the community hall to accommodate overflow crowds, of a man with a shovel uncovering gravestones and a rancher’s plane sitting in a meadow near the marker. Of people walking half a mile back to their cars after the ceremony because of limited parking at the highway site, and children from a nearby school eating sack lunches brought along on the field trip.

DeWitty is gone, and Brownlee nearly so, but the spirit of neighborliness is not. There are memories of moments less proud in the minds of descendants on both sides, but healing is possible, and the marker celebration is proof of that.

A group of locals leaned on parked vehicles outside the Brownlee community hall and visited while waiting for the room to go in and eat. A thought came to me as we stood there, and as we drove away. It lingers now, as I look back on the event.

“If these walls could talk…”

 

(slightly edited by J.Gray)

The Ceremony is upon us!

Historical Marker for DeWitty is installed.in remembrance of Nebraska’s largest and most well-known African-American rural community, off U.S. Highway 83 near Brownlee.
DeWitty was the town that had the audacity to think they could, and so they did.
Although the town didn’t survive and most of the land reclaimed itself, the legacy of those who came is evident by the descendants who will stand with us Monday, April 11. The driving force behind every plow, every nail driven, every sod wall built was with one purpose in mind. Not to build a lasting farming town but to be the stepping stone for their children’s futures. Each family ensured that education both religious and academic teaching were primary and the support to choose their direction was indeed encouraged for they were taught to believe they could grasp whatever star they reached for. Freedom to seek out adventure that beckons the bright and spirited minds.
So April 11, 2016
Just south of Brownlee turnoff, Highway 83 – we the descendants, neighbors, and friends will come together and shall honor the hard work of our ancestors, their drive, devotion, and visions. Remembering DeWitty pays homage to those who confronted racial barriers in the pre-civil war of United States, in Canada and in the Nebraska Sand Hills with a ‘we can overcome’ attitude. Remembering DeWitty gives anyone who knows their story a reminder that they can, too.” Contrary to various accountings for the reason of the demise of this town, DeWitty renamed Audacious centered their energies, visions, and struggles to achieve the American dream. They achieved their mission, and this is a fitting memorial for all their struggles.

So by chance you can come and plan to share at 10 am, April 11, 2016, please do; for after the ceremony, there is a planned potluck luncheon by the folks of Brownlee in the Community Center for all to meet and greet.

Thursday, Elsie and Polly

            A few days ago, I was on my back porch, and I noticed a lovely butterfly landing on one of the plants. Wow, I wonder if she’ll stay long enough for me to go get my camera?? I dashed into the house, and, of course, the camera wasn’t ready. I had to stop and put the SD card back in. Feeling a bit deflated because I was taking so long, I just knew that the beautiful butterfly would be long gone. But I headed back out to where I saw it and low and behold she was still there!! As I snapped picture after picture I talked gently to her.

2015-07-08 09.22.27

 

2015-07-08 09.22.44

Black and beautiful as can be!

            She was just fluttering from plant to plant, then holding still at times and posing for me. I was so excited for I had heard that when butterflies come to you they are in fact your ancestors coming to say hello with a meaning we have to find. Then later that day I went out to get the mail and up from the small group of flowers at the base of the mailbox stand, came two pure white butterflies. They both flew all around me as I walked back up towards the house. I changed my mind and veered off the driveway towards my small vegetable garden to see what was growing. The White butterflies continued to fly around in front of me. I saw there were string beans and a large green tomato that I wanted to harvest, so I headed back towards the house to get a bowl. Those butterflies followed me right up to the front door. Of course (as usual), as I entered the houseI got distracted, I changed shoes and went into my office and sat down at the computer. On top of papers directly under the computer screen; was a form from the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center. My intention was to fill it out and request a copy of any records available for Polly Johnson, (paternal our great-grandmother). As I reached for a pen, I picked up the phone instead and called the number listed on the form.

            I spent almost an hour on the phone with a lovely young lady Katie, who guided my search through various links and what we found…well I just had to take a moment and breath….I didn’t realize until then that I had been holding my breath and gritting my teeth so hard my jaw began to ache. Finally, after getting my breathing under control, I said a prayer of thanks, both to God and to the Butterflies!

Freedmen records- Polly JohnsonFreedmen records- THURSDAY

            These two images are Polly Johnson’s enrollment card as a Creek Freedmen qualifying her for payment of 40 acres we found.  Sadly, though it states that Polly was not mentally well enough to speak for herself. Her cousin Sally Roberts gave witness on her behalf.  The back of her card (to the right) list Polly’s father; “Thursday” listed as a Seminole Freedmen, and her mother Elsie Doyle a full blood Creek. Other records support her mother’s bloodline.

                Now I believe I understand why I couldn’t find our names on the rolls. Polly born 1845, was registered on the 1865 Dunn rolls before her first child was born, by the time the Dawes rolls were put in place (1906-1907) Polly had seen such hardship we hesitate to imagine. Her husband had died,  left her penniless with five children, then her brother moved in as a widow, invalid and with two young daughters. As 1900 rolled in she was still struggling to make ends meet. Living with her extended family in a boarding house and washing clothes for 10-12 hours each day, seven days a week for so little pay. By 1903, Polly was in poor health, just plain worn out and with the help of Sally Roberts her cousin and other family members they moved her to Oklahoma nearer to her family. Her children were all grown and gone on to find their way in life, but she had her daughter Ida and many other family members to count on. Her oldest was John Grant Pegg, married to the former Mary Charlotte Page of Kansas, father, and a respected Republican in Omaha employed by the Mayor as the Weights and Measures Inspector. Her daughters Ida and Maggie both married and with families of their own. Not sure what happened to Robert but Bayless her second son by this time was up north with younger brother Charles homesteading on their cattle ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. They eventually gave up the harsh life and Charles first moved to Illinois then onto Oakland, CA and Bayless moved to Chicago, IL.

Listed as a Freedmen was a mixed bag for many, it must have felt like being the ball in a ping-pong tournament First the mixed blood was accepted, and then the Five Tribes declared them noncitizens. This argument has continued to present day. Can the descendants of the mix blood and slaves of the Indians be counted as citizens of the Indian Nation, can they have the rights and privileges, voting and such?

So now what we do know is Polly Johnson’s father was Thursday and her mother Elsie Doyle and her cousin is Sally Roberts with a younger cousin Sid Kernel!     Not bad for a phone call on a hot afternoon!

There is much more to this story, please follow me and get my updates.

Mvto (Thank you) for reading my Latest News!

 Joyceann

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