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African Renaissance

I went to a Model C school in post-apartheid South Africa and only survived for a year

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When it comes to the issues of eating disorders, which is the topic I am addressing today. Topics such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

The question for me has always been (as a fellow sufferer), why aren’t we telling our daughters that to be perfectionists it is ok? It is perfectly fine for a man to understand that. I’m not here to talk about entitlement, social cohesion and good governance, and land reform in Africa and elsewhere in the world and good schools.

The rich send their children to good schools. The poor send their children to no schools. I was a product of a lot of schools, and I knew intrinsically that something was wrong. It had come to that time when you make career decision. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? I didn’t want to do anything. All I wanted was to stay at home, drink coffee, and read books. She, my mother, began to live vicariously through me. For all of my life.

I am the bone-thin sweetheart under my kitchen table, with the not so perfect hair. I listen to Karen Carpenter and get the blues. I love to die a succession of deaths in under an hour. I’m obsessed with the Bang Bang Club. I’ve become obsessed with Kevin Carter’s psyche before he killed himself. I listen to the Manic Street Preachers. They have a design for life. Always have since I did my O’ levels in Swaziland.

Life is beautiful when I write. I adore the writing life. Aren’t glaciers even beautiful, the rush of winter in the trees, birdsong in the clear of day, and the clarity of the sensibility of all of them but writing, the book stuff is something else. It’s all a part of life, my life. My mother lived her own life. When she didn’t feel satisfied or fulfilled, she put all of her sexual inadequacy, insecurities and doubts on me.

And the only things that I seem to have on my mind is that I don’t have enough time in the world during the day to write, to perfect the craft of writing, the art of it. So, wish-fulfilment has been on my mind, that and everything else that is happening to ‘the people of the south’, the people in South Africa, the vulnerable. Everything is fleeting, including your youth. At the heart of it all we’re all poets. But most of all I’m frightened of the wild, of the wilderness disappearing. I am mourning our mountains, and rivers. Topic for another discussion for another day. Body dysmorphic disorder must be realised for what it is. A poor self-image.

What are your answers on how to sell a book and save the world at the same time? And I’m frightened all the time. Frightened of being an invisible person, an invisible woman for all of my life, because I was a prodigy, or am I forgetting myself again. Fear and anxiety rise up in my throat. The voices say that I am mad, that I will never get a man, and he will never trust my judgement. The loneliness wells up inside of me. I think of the reality of my dreams, and nightmares. The men that I telephone, who accepted my friendship when I was in my early twenties, who do not return, who have stopped returning my calls. Shy away from me.

The voices worship, and adore me. They do, they do, they do. They’re fierce creatures when it comes to the burden, and care of loving me, heavenly when they play my love songs on repeat. Video did really kill the radio star. Fear is what I hold dear. Anxiety is what I cherish. I am volcano lover versus oil on my hands. I am devilish. I am exquisite. I am poet. I am lake. Sometimes I go where the mood takes me. Sometimes I am numb with cold, then freezing to death because of the air in my room, salt, and light, and energy on the forsaken summer breeze, and I think of my arms, and legs as I do branches.

I smell like a forest of trees. Ancient and cool, like driftwood spat out of the cold sea. The men I once loved are decades older, and I still long to be in their arms, to be in their bed. I search the internet for online literary journals in Scandinavia, because the voices tell me I am something of a poet. I have sorrows on my mind, the colour blue, fish fingers on my plate heavy with ketchup, chapped lips, a greasy egg breakfast. Vertigo goes to my head. I watch Pastor Joel Osteen on the television.

After the television evangelist Joseph Prince’s show, they give me the good news that I want to hear. And yes, yes, I mustn’t waste my pain.

Of course, everyone understands my situation now after watching Homeland. Poor girl, they all say, the father substitutes feel sorry for me.  Their wives, my surrogate mothers every one, roll their eyes heavenward. I know exactly how they feel about me. I replaced my own father’s affections for my mother My life is fodder for everything that I write. I just want to be happy. To be happy to me is to live on a diet of coffee and yoghurt and lettuce. Rabbit food and salad and literally eating mayonnaise out of a jar. Licking the back of the spoon makes me feel all-powerful.

Why does it seem that prodigies never want to grow up, accept the responsibilities of a 9-to-5 job, make a positive contribution to society? If they are a daughter-child they think that they will never find a man or partner love them as much as their father. So, they find themselves in therapy (I was in therapy since I was before 8 years old, and 40 years old before I understood the intricacies of the mind, how every brain disorder worked on a rational, irrational, realistic, non-realistic, reality, non-reality level). There is a lot of thought-work being put into having the psychological traits today of both mother and father. Today we are studying aspects of the brain that have never been studied before.

Spending quality time with the mother-figure/figures in your life, if you were so unlucky never to have, or, rather have a lack of a mother-figure in your life. We only have to look at the building-bridges architype between the Duchess of Sussex and her mother. The Duchess of Sussex is an outstanding role model for children of mixed-race relationships. I follow her brand of diplomacy in my own inter-personal relationships in my public and private and personal lives. Both the Duchess and her mother are the epitome of class and elegance in public. Kudos to them for winning the hearts of the public.

Living your life in a bubble is unimaginable sometimes. The public (I have realised through singular trial and error) will never see you at your most human when you are a public figure. What will always be key in all of our lives, whether we are famous or not, is how we master diplomacy, negotiation and reconciliation in our own life. Master respect and master forgiveness. Watching Jeff Bezos, Prince William and Prince Harry, Albert Einstein, Jean Rhys, Rilke, Nikolas Tesla, Elon Musk, the late filmmaker and visionary-creative Anthony Minghella (Mr Wonderful. The Talented Mr Ripley based on a Patricia Highsmith novel.

and The English Patient).

I began to see that from inconsolable grief, isolation from your peer group, losing a loved one, or, not having the love you need in your life we can use the presence of deep and emotional pain, what hurt us in our past, every incident of trauma, and even been bullied can begin to rebuild our mindsets’. Yes, it can I believe. I can only speak from my own experience. I have empowered and uplifted myself. Now I must do this with millions. Millions of the displaced, marginalised, vulnerable, and jobless. I want everyone to have a seat at the table.

I am glad the topic of sexual violence has come up in the pages of Modern Diplomacy and child rapists.

You know, I thought to myself it was about time, and then I cried because I was so happy. Gender-based violence is another topic close to my heart. If you are a woman of colour, reach out to all woman of colour especially those who want to ask your advice. We are building a nation not of equality, but cohesion. The following step is of course rehabilitation for both parties involved. The victim being abused, and the perpetrator of abuse. My aunt was an alcoholic.

The stigma in the coloured community of a woman drowning her sorrows in addiction was so great she died of alcoholism. She will never know her granddaughters. Racism is also a form of mental cruelty. Every violence, domestic, sexual, mental is a form of cruelty of the worst kind. There was domestic violence in my family. Everybody knew what was happening in the family, but nobody did anything about it. I watched all of this from afar.

All I want you to do is to remember me. Remember that children are not in the habit of wanting a lover, that’s grown up married stuff. Rather all they for most of their lives is accepting that I just need a friend, like I need sobriety, like I need a man in my life. Women don’t want to be my friend. They rather treat me unkindly. Laugh at me behind my back. Destroy my reputation just because they can. I will always remember you, you, and you. How you said I was behaving, like I had been misbehaving, not taking my medication. How you spoke to me as if was unwell. That I needed to be treated for the depression again, or, something, or, something else this time around.

I have stopped loving you. I am not in love with you anymore. I would be a fool. I would be the insecure coward. You win traitor. You’ve got the girl now. You’ve got that woman on your arm. You made a fool out of me. Never replied to my emails. Perhaps I was lovesick, traitor.

You’re yesterday, traitor. You’re suffering, traitor. You are kismet, milk-fed, champagne snorting through your nose at the parties, and social gatherings that you go to with that girl on your arm. When you move on the dance floor at the nightclub, you move into her, grasp her in your arms as if you will never let her go. You let me go, go, go.

I really wish you would smoke. Light up that joint, fall asleep with marijuana in your bone season, but you won’t. You won’t think of snorting cocaine up your nose. You’ll drink sherry, but half-half-heartedly, just to join in with the rest of your in-crowd.

You’re still as popular as you ever were in high school. All the girls, no matter what their age, they all fall for you. They are all in love with you. I feel split right down the middle, because of you traitor, part of me calls you vulnerable, part of me remembers the intimacy of our conversations.

The prodigy is frightened of the world, does not understand how critical it is to be ‘people who need people, and that they are the luckiest people in the world’. And he grows up, she grows up so focused on achieve, achieve, achieve. Accomplish, accomplish, accomplish. Give me grandchildren. Marry. But all they hear are is that they are not children anymore. They have to marry now, have sexual relations, join the adult workforce, and they think their glory days are over. That they will never be truly loved again. Then when they are not loved, they consider everybody in their adult life as traitor.

How I long for a bowl of black olives. I long to spit the stone out, like you spat me out, traitor, as if I was the criminal in this narrative. I’ll write a book about you one day, see if I don’t. I swear on my father’s wheelchair, I swear on his life, I will, I will, I will. I won’t call you sweetheart. Just remember me, please. They don’t know anything about the longevity of a career, how time-consuming it is. They just want to remember that once they were a gifted child.

So, topics today concern children. I espouse family values. This is very important to me. Children must be protected at all times. We have discussed mental wellness. Suicide is on the increase. Children must play. I was always at a drama rehearsal at a very young age. I never wanted to go home to that hellhole. A dysfunctional family who could see that I was different, told me so, destroyed my self-esteem and identity. Even the person I loved most in the world. My brother turned on me as an adult.

Do I advocate free clinics around the world dealing with issues of mental wellness for men, and young men, women, and young women, people of every age, especially widows and orphans, the homeless (when I was homeless, I stayed at the Salvation Army and a shelter for abandoned women and children).

They call themselves places of safety. Yes, I do think people should be trained to deal with people who are mentally ill. Most of all have empathy for them.  We must not fail to realise what is at stake here and all the stakeholders involved. Especially our sons and daughters.

They are of course the next generation. We must protect the most vulnerable stakeholders when it comes to mental wellness. Understand that where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

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African Renaissance

The YCCC and How It Changed the Future of South Africa

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This was the pre-apartheid education that we received when we were still at school. I was 13, 14 years of age at the time of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which then led to the forced removals and people literally being ‘dumped’ in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. Dr Neville Alexander came to Port Elizabeth on two occasions. The YCCC-organisation (Yu Chi Chan Club) was primarily based on guerrilla warfare as is expounded by the leader of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Se Tung. It elucidates in his long walk to freedom, as well as his account in the new democracy as is expounded by his books and writings. These ideologies played a key role in formulating policy in the fight of guerrilla warfare against the Nationalist Party government. It is imperative to mention that the textbook for the organisation was Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara which was slavishly followed by discussions in the organisation. Other books included Partisan Warfare by Lenin, as well as Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

This took a lot of preparation and in-depth discussion groups took place based on these classic writers. It was imperative that these books were simplified and applied to the unique situation in South Africa. Dr Alexander and Ali Fataar, the then banned member of the executive of the NUM (New Unity Movement) came to Port Elizabeth to do exploratory work in creating fertile political groundwork for establishing the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement) groupings. They visited areas like Korsten, Schauderville at night where they held underground discussion groups on the non-collaboration and the ‘Ten-Point Programme’ which at that early stage were very important and relevant documents. These were lengthy discussion groups which took place throughout the night. However, it crystallised into a solid branch of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), Korsten branch. Further exploratory work was conducted in the area before these two stalwarts could return to Cape Town.

As a young student (16 years of age) we had the opportunity of meeting with people of the calibre of Dr Alexander at a very early stage in our political careers. This took place while we attended the CPSU (Cape Peninsula Students Union) group at our residence in Lloyd Street, Cape Town. This group grew rapidly as more and more progressive students became interested in the finer progressive political ideologies of the CPSU. We met regularly every fortnight and the discussions took place until the early hours of the morning. The topics included Bantu Education, Coloured Education, Bush University, Students Representative Council issues and the like. We also organised regular meetings on camping trips on Table Mountain where extensive politicisation took place on advanced political ideologies such as capitalism, imperialism and world ideologies of the day. We became acutely aware that our home got the attention of the security police. However, this did not deter us from becoming acutely aware of the intrusion of capitalism and imperialism and the like. It was at a very young age that I became involved in student politics which has its origin in political activity.

The forced removals, the Group Areas Act, the political upheaval caused havoc amongst particularly the young who were influenced by teachers who belonged to the Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department) and the TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa). The city was ablaze with political activity which in a short space of time demonstrated deep into the youth. This needless to say was influenced by political youth in the Western Cape. What was affecting the students in the Western Cape was, alas, also affecting the students in the Cape, particularly Gqeberha. At times, the situation became extremely volatile and out of control. Organisations like the NUM (National Unity Movement), Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department), TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa) reigned supreme. It was also apparent that the ratepayer’s organisations which were formed to fight against the rapid erosion of management committees.

Many public meetings were held with F.A. Landman and Dennis Brutus (vice-chairman), who were at pains to point out the disadvantages of the Group Areas Act. Many groups were formed which included the ANC, the PAC, the Unity Movement and allied groups were mobilised. It became apparent that the Group Areas Act was not going to go through a very easy passage. The organisations were not unified in their actions and this gave the opposition deep inroads into progressive thinkers. As a student group at the University College of the Western Cape we were invited to SOYA (Society of Young Africa) meetings in the Mowbray Minor Hall on a Sunday afternoon. For the first time we witnessed serious altercations among the members of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), and this included Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams.

The topic of discussion was on Angola and the chairlady of the meeting Miss Wilcox clearly did not understand her mandate. Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams tackled her on the political aspects of FRELIMO Liberation Front of Mozambique). It appeared that two factions had now developed in the meeting. It was really a fisticuffs kind of thing. It appeared as if Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams were at loggerheads with the present discussion leaders of the main group. The matter came to a head when the chairperson asked Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams to leave the meeting. However, before that could take place Dr Abrahams announced to the meeting that all those who believed in democracy would leave the meeting. I was one of the Western Cape students who felt urged to leave the meeting with Alexander and Abrahams, which we did and met again at No. 2 Swiss Road in Lansdowne for a follow-up meeting. Officially, at this meeting there was information about the YCCC (Yu Chi Chan Club). Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams felt no animosity which the meeting gave them as they left.

Dr Alexander was described as a dark horse by my father. As with all leaders, the maverick visionaries and profound thinkers, brilliant intellectuals, and having the primitive wonders of both wisdom and intelligence, for these men ahead of their time their faith was shared only by their comrades in the struggle. These stalwarts have taught me that it is the tendency of every man, woman and child of every race, of every faith to embrace every other man, woman and child of every race, and of every other faith. Indeed, it is rare. Indeed, it is exceptional when it happens. Language is a bridge. The language is not of love, but of respect. It is the flesh and blood of mother tongue language that divides us. It is respect that conquers self-pity, arrogance and narcissism. There is no one identity. Yet there is one moral code. Multiculturalism has changed the order of history, moral ambiguity, cast a spell on the doctrines and phenomena of religion. In humanity, in this human world, these leaders have taught us purpose on earth, the awareness of self, lack of ego and the finding of our identity in existential relativism, pedagogical and counterfeit phenomenology. Multiply achievement and you get the candy shop of the poetic horrors of over-abundance, the romantic weariness of decay and the complex strength of popularity.

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African Renaissance

Truth and the third wave of the pandemic: To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated

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Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash

I have endured the worst possible case scenario. Being locked up in a mental institution for six months while in my late teens, early twenties. Even though I was of sound body, mind and soul. I am 42 years old now and I haven’t come all the way back from that experience. Everyone wrote me off when I returned home to Port Elizabeth as Gqeberha was known in those days but worse was to follow. Inhumane treatment from those closest to me, rejection from society. I was taught that I had a mental disability and would never be able to work again, hold down a steady job or earn a monthly income. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to now live on the fringes of society since I would be unable to make a positive contribution to society. For twenty years this continued. I had to all intents and purposes not only given up on myself, my personal success, development of my potential and fulfillment and engagement in a relationship that would lead ultimately to my future happiness. The goal of marriage and having a child, bringing children into the world and raising a family was not only put into the distant past, I thought that it would always be non-existent for me.

I would spend my time listening to sad music, love songs on the radio and wonder why it was not me caught up in the scenario of having a relationship with the opposite sex. I sank even further into the pit of the hell in f despair and hardship. I virtually had lost control over my life, received a disability grant which I did not spend on anything which I personally needed. Family considered me to be the proverbial black sheep of the family. When I got angry at the way I was treated I was certified. My rights were taken away from me. I was verbally, mentally and emotionally abused. I did everything in my power to be loved and accepted by both my maternal and paternal family which is why I believe so strongly today in dismantling the stigma that surrounds issues concerning mental illness and depression mania, euphoria and elation (however mild or all-consuming it might be). At this late stage of my life I have become an advocate for mental wellness. To stop the fight and curb the alienation and isolation of sufferers of mental illness. I want people from all walks of life to realise that people with mental illnesses can enrich our lives and can make a positive contribution to society.

I myself have always sought solace in writing. I have found it to be an instrument for change and therapeutic as well.

I have firsthand knowledge and experience of being called anything from schizophrenic to being diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder and because of the heavy psychotropic medication I have taken over the years I have had a host of illnesses presenting themselves. Chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, an underactive thyroid, chronic kidney disease, gout and heart disease. These diseases manifested themselves early on in my life before the onset of middle age when they would be more prevalent in someone who would be prone to these sorts of illnesses because of not living a healthy lifestyle.

I take each day as it comes now and live in the moment. I have my good days. I have my bad days. I have a mean temper and constantly have to watch what I eat, watch what I say and how I react to people who treat me as him I am a second class citizen because of everything I have been through in my life. Truth be told I always knew I was different. The depression started in childhood for me. I was always an overachiever. I would come home in the afternoons after school but no one ever helped me with my homework, told me either that they were proud of me or believed in me or loved me for that matter.

Everyday I am a work in progress. It is tough dealing with moodswing but that is the currency I deal in and the territory that borders my sense of self-control.

I have been called many names. None of them pretty or lovely. I have had zero support from my immediate family and my estranged family has complete written me off and washed their hands off of me thinking there is nothing they can do for me. This has been very hurtful and even has made made me feel quite suicidal over the years and in my hour if need, my hours of silence, pain and collective trauma I turned to God, prayer and meditation in my hour of need. At the time of the outbreak of the pandemic I got corona and was admitted to the psych ward at Provincial Hospital here in Gqeberha. I had no medical aid and was once again at the mercy of the system but I survived hell and that harrowing experience again to live to tell the tale of how to overcome the impossible, to live and to learn, to remain humble and kind even in the face of adversity and cruelty.

Loneliness, abject poverty, homelessness can either kill you or make you realise that you are powerful beyond measure and I have realised that I am powerful beyond measure.

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African Renaissance

Thoughts From the Frontline

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Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash

“Hip/Hop, Trap. I would describe my music as different, unique, compared to what I hear in the music industry in South Africa. It is a different sound of genre based on hip hop. In my downtime I listen to artists like Mexikodro, Playboi Carti, Diego Money, Pyrex Whippa, Lil Gotit and Sahbabii. In my life my family has been and still is a major influence, I just want to see them happy and stress free. I want to be successful so that they can spend the rest of lives living comfortably. I chose music because I believe that it is something I’m good at. I wouldn’t call myself a musical genius, or say that I’m talented musically because I’m not but, I have taken the time to learn everything that I know today, I started as a rapper, but now I am a producer as well, a very good one if I should say, I mix and master vocals, well I try to. It is still something I am learning on a daily basis and I believe that one day if not soon, I will understand that aspect of music. The guys who I record with are so gifted at what they do, we really inspire each other to take it to the next level. I would be lying if I said that I inspire myself, well maybe I do, I don’t know, however what I do know is that we can go to the next level together because nowadays you rarely see a duo or a group of rappers in the South African music industry, there are 4 of us in our group including others who aren’t full time as yet, I think that makes the odds better for us to take it to the next level as opposed to being a solo” SUPREME ZEE, CEO OF Holidae Don’t Stop!

“What inspires me to take it to the next level is basically my daughter, Family and my everyday experiences growing up and living in Westbury losing friends and family to gang violence had a huge effect on me since a young age I’ve been through hell and back if I may describe in short and I’ve realized, to make it out you really need to dig deep. This is also one of the main reasons why I started writing music. I love Music, it is my passion that is mainly why I chose to make music, ever since a young age I’ve just been through the worst writing music and articulating every word I write is therapeutic. Manifesting and having faith in God has carried me through. Major influences in my life remains God, my baby girl, my family and obviously my Team Holidae Dont Stop! We always encourage one another to do our best we definitely do bring out the best in each other and I’d say the beats that supreme Zee creates brings out the best in me personally and it’s also one of the major influences in my music career it’s only elevated since the moment we started. In my down time I listen to All types of music mostly Gospel & HDS. I would describe my music as being one in a million very versatile, real and unusually different from the usual and it has an unorthodox flow and style to it so you can literally expect only the best” TheGR8ACE, CEO and co-founder of Holidae Dont Stop!

My inspiration comes from knowing that I have a God given talent and my friends (HDS) and family that motivates me day to day to do better. I chose music because as a hobby it is something I love doing which started out in high school where I had friends that used to rap over beats and I’d just stand within the circle and listen to their rhymes and it became to amuse me when I found out that there are people in my community creating their own music, whereas in 2019, I linked with the crew Holidae Dont Stop! and it has been a wonderful journey ever since! Learning and growing at the same time. My mother has played a role as one of my biggest inspirations including friends (HDS) have been a major Influence in my life, for they always pushed me to be a better me. Not giving up on me and providing not bad advice but love and positivity. I’ve been in difficult situation in the past and I am just trying to make a better standard of living for my family, my friends as well as my community (Westbury). In my down time I listen to various genres like Rock, Rnb, Hip/Hop, Rap, Emo Rap. I would describe our music as Western Plug for it derives from Hip-hop with an offbeat including 808s and guitar and piano samples that Supreme Zee (Producer) recreates and when hearing the beat, I can automatically put my heart on it.” Bando -recording Artist at Holidae Dont Stop!

 To conclude this, we are all from Johannesburg South Africa as one of our members spread across as far as Cape Town, temporarily. Our member who are not full time are – Leiph Camp (Splaash66) Stock broker, Razaak Benjamin (Glock) Salesman and Marion Reyners (Marion The Great) Facilitator. “Our music is Bold, Iconic and timeless” TheGr8ce. Our crew is based in Jozi (Johannesburg) although we do not have a manager as yet. Our follow up record will sound similar to the “Western Plug tape” that we have recently released, followed by 3 singles. Plug is a genre that derives itself from Hip-Hop and our next single will drop in 2 weeks. The link to our music is on all platforms and the Love and support would be much appreciated. We literally wont stop! –

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