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Doin' The Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change
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Doin' The Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change

Author: Shimon Cohen

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Podcast highlighting people working for social change. Interviews with social workers and those in related fields, educators, and activists about their work and personal stories of how they got into this work. Hosted by Shimon Cohen, LCSW.
32 Episodes
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Episode 32 Guest: K Agbebiyi, MSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with K Agbebiyi, who is a prison abolitionist in Washington Heights, New York. K explains that prison abolition is a dual process of creating the world we want to live in, which includes new ways of addressing harm, and working to close prisons now. K connects mass incarceration and policing to the history of chattel slavery, all rooted in anti-Blackness, and discusses how defunding the police is one part of the overall goal of prison abolition. They talk about how to get involved in prison abolition on a local level, tracking government budgets to see how much spending is going to policing and the construction of new jails, and connecting with others who want to do something about it. K explains how they got into this work, which started with organizing for racial justice, LGBTQ justice, and reproductive justice before focusing on prison abolition. They share about being a survivor and organizing with other survivors who do not want incarceration to be done in their name. We discuss accountability and safety, as well as links to child welfare and social work. K shares recommended readings for people who want to learn more. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   www.8toAbolition.com Instagram: @sheabutterfemme Twitter: @sheabutterfemme sheabutterfemme@protonmail.com @survivepunishNY  
Episode 31 Guest: Lutze Segu, MSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Lutze Segu, who is the Social Justice Doula, from Miami, Florida. Lutze explains that she works to “create the conditions for social justice learning and transformation to take place” for individuals and organizations. She talks about how she loves seeing people grow and become committed to antiracist social justice work, become politically active, how she deeply believes in the inherent value and good of people to change, and that even though conditions in the world can be terrible, she always has hope doing this work. Lutze shares techniques she uses with people to help with this transformation and explains how theory, specifically Black Feminism, saved her life, helping her to see how systems oppress and that people are not to blame for their conditions, and how this relates to social work’s person-in-environment approach. We discuss the white supremacy enacted by social workers and clinicians who pathologize oppression, placing the problem inside clients, rather than acknowledging the violence of this “anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-queer, anti-trans, anti-immigrant world” and how social workers should be committed to social justice, not gatekeeping and the maintenance of oppression. She challenges us to ask ourselves what we are really practicing and “how are we personally going to divest from anti-Blackness.” Lutze also talks about how she got into this work, sharing a powerful story of what it meant to attend Florida Memorial University, an HBCU in Miami. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   www.lutzesegu.com Instagram: @socialjusticedoula Twitter: @FeministGriote
Episode 30 Guests: Mark Houston, LCSW and Pauline Green, Esq Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Pauline Green, Executive Director and Mark Houston, Clinical Manager, of The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth in Miami, Florida. They discuss the multiple aspects of the work they do with LGBTQ youth in Miami-Dade County, such as care coordination, clinical services, community education, training for service providers and educators, and policy change. We explore some key issues affecting LGBTQ youth, particularly safety and homelessness, as well as multiple forms of oppression such as homophobia, transphobia, and racism. Mark and Pauline talk about how The Alliance builds community in a youth-led, affirming space that builds on the resiliency many LGBTQ youth already possess. We discuss the harm that can be done by social workers and clinicians who do not challenge heterosexism and cisgenderism. Pauline and Mark also share how they got into this work. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   www.glbtqalliance.org Instagram: @glbtqalliance Facebook: @glbtqalliance Twitter: @glbtqalliance
Episode 29 Guest: Tre King, MSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Tre King, who is a Mental Health Coordinator in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Tre explains how he is one of 65 mental health coordinators in the school district’s Department of Mental Health Services, and that he and his colleagues each serve five schools of various grade levels. We talk about the issues affecting students and how Tre works with them. Tre discusses what it is like to work within the same school district he attended, in his own community, and how he sees himself in his students. We explore how marginalized and oppressed communities are talked about in social work classrooms and the profession versus Tre’s reality of his own background and current social work practice. Tre talks about trainings he’s done in the community, such as Mental Health First Aid. Tre also shares how he got into this work. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   Twitter: @Tre_King_MDCPS http://mentalhealthservices.dadeschools.net/ MDCPS Mental Health Services Twitter: @MDCPS_MHS MDCPS Mental Health Services Parent Assistance Line: (305) 995-7100 operational Monday-Friday 8am-4pm to assist students and their families with Mental Health Support
Episode 28 Guest: Alejandra Martinez Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Alejandra Martinez, who is the Workshop Coordinator of the Border Rights Project of Al Otro Lado, a bi-national, social justice legal services organization serving deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego and Los Angeles, California. Alejandra talks about the incredibly challenging conditions faced by people who are migrating and seeking asylum and the inhumane U.S. policies such as an illegal waitlist, the highly controversial family separation, and the MPP-Migrant Protection Protocol law, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, as well as how U.S. asylum procedures are constantly changing and unpredictable. She explains that she and her team provide a safe, supportive space in Tijuana, where they acknowledge the trauma and long journey many asylum seekers and migrants have experienced. Alejandra discusses how the Border Rights Project provides legal orientation and a “Know Your Rights” session for asylum seekers, as well as connects them to additional services such as shelters and medical care. She tells how Al Otro Lado recently reunited 29 families who had been separated, and she shares how she got into this work. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   www.alotrolado.org Twitter: @AlOtroLado_Org Instagram: @alotrolado_org Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlOtroLadoOrg alejandra@alotrolado.org
Episode 27 Guests: Charla Cannon Yearwood, LSW and Laura Hoge, LCSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Charla Cannon Yearwood and Laura Hoge, two members of SWCAREs – Social Work Coalition for Anti-Racist Educators. Charla is a clinical assistant professor of field at Indiana University School of Social Work. Laura is a psychotherapist, community organizer, activist, and has been an adjunct professor at multiple universities. Charla and Laura talk about SWCAREs’ mission to dismantle white supremacy in social work education and why this mission is needed. They explain what they mean by white supremacy in social work and provide historical and current examples ranging from leaving out Black and other social work leaders of color from history, to practices that do more harm than good to communities of color, to how boundaries and other ethics often seem to be designed by white social workers for white social workers. There is so much covered in this episode and it is just the start of these explicit conversations on the podcast. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   www.swcares.org Twitter: @swcares2 @CharlaYearwood @LauraHoge
Episode 26 Guests: Brenton Gicker & Chelsea Swift Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Brenton Gicker and Chelsea Swift of CAHOOTS – Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, a 24/7 mobile crisis intervention program of the White Bird Clinic in Eugene, Oregon. CAHOOTS, which pairs a mental health crisis worker and a medic in a big white van, has been receiving national attention as a model for a crisis response alternative to the police or fire department. Chelsea and Brenton share what a typical shift is like for them and how 911 calls are routed to them rather than the police for certain situations. We discuss the cost-effective approach of CAHOOTS as well as the humanitarian benefits, such as de-escalation and fewer arrests, by utilizing the skills of medical and mental health professionals rather than the police. Brenton and Chelsea both share how they got into this work, and how they began as crisis workers and then each decided to become medics, Brenton a registered nurse, and Chelsea an emergency medical technician. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   www.whitebirdclinic.org/cahoots Twitter: @WhiteBirdClinic Facebook: www.facebook.com/WhiteBirdClinic
Episode 25 Guests: T. Marie King & Abigail Schneider Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with T. Marie King and Abigail Schneider of the Jefferson County Memorial Project (JCMP) in Birmingham, Alabama. T. Marie is a Community Activist/Organizer and JCMP Core Coalition Member. Abigail is the JCMP Project Director. They explain that JCMP came together to answer the call from the Equal Justice Initiative for the 800 counties across the United Stated with documented lynchings to retrieve their monument from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and place it in their county. They talk about their work to recognize and honor the victims of lynching in Jefferson County, beginning with research into who the 30 documented lynching victims were, their lives, and their humanity. T. Marie tells the story of her great-uncle Ed Bracy who was murdered by a racist white mob in 1935 for organizing sharecroppers. They also discuss their educational outreach and advocacy work for racial justice, as well as how they got into this work. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.   info@jeffersoncountymemorial.com  www.jeffersoncountymemorial.com  IG: jeffcomemorial Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeffersoncountymemorialproject EJI: https://eji.org
Episode 24 Guest: Eric Ward Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU’s Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Eric Ward, who is the Executive Director of Western States Center, in Portland, Oregon. Eric has years of organizing against white supremacy, with a particular focus on white nationalist organizations. He details how antisemitism and racism are at the core of white nationalism and encourages us to understand the problem in order to address it. Eric explains how white nationalism is a growing social movement in the U.S. that is building political power and having a major impact on legislative policy. We’ve seen this with the current administration’s immigration policy and clear connection to white nationalism. Eric shares strategies Western States Center uses to organize, such as local research shared with civil rights organizations, coalition building, school-based materials, and trainings – and provides a variety of ways everyone can fight white nationalism. He also talks about how he got into this work. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   www.westernstatescenter.org/ Twitter: @wstatescenter
Episode 23 Guest: Jordan Thierry Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript Transcription services provided by FIU's Disability Resource Center   In this episode, I talk with Jordan Thierry, owner and creative director at Dream Chase Media, and policy consultant. We talk about Jordan’s work on the frontlines of storytelling and his films, including The Black Fatherhood Project, which provides a historical and present day context to the structural forces impacting Black families, and his new project Grandma’s Roses, which will be a series on YouTube focusing on the stories of grandmothers of color that was inspired as a tribute to his grandmother after she passed. Jordan discusses details of the stories these grandmothers shared with him about their lives and what this process was like for him. He talks about his goal of educating people and inspiring them to action. He also explains his policy work with The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. Jordan shares how he got into grassroots storytelling and social justice organizing. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DreamChaseLife/ IG: @DreamChaseLife Jordan@Dreamchasemedia.com YouTube: www.dreamchase.life
Episode 22 Guest: Rachel Frome, MSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcast Download transcript   In this episode, I talk with Rachel Frome, who is the Program Coordinator of Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement, a national task force dedicated to ending solitary confinement. Rachel discusses the negative impacts of solitary confinement, especially how it can cause and exacerbate mental health issues. She describes alternatives to solitary confinement, as well as the challenges of organizing for an end to solitary, and how lawmakers and those running prisons use wording such as “administrative segregation” as a way to deny that prisoners are held in solitary. We explore the connection between the work to abolish solitary confinement with the work to end mass incarceration, as well as the dialogue Social Workers Against Solitary Confinement has with social workers who work in these settings. Rachel shares the story of how she got into this work and urges all social workers to work to abolish solitary confinement and mass incarceration. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   Website: https://www.socialworkersasc.org/  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SWASC/ Twitter: @end_solitary Email: contactSWASC@gmail.com Personal email: rachelfrome@gmail.com Conference Info
Episode 21 Guest: Asia Piña, MSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcastDownload transcript   In this episode, I talk with Asia Piña, who is an Early Defense Social Worker for the Family Defense Practice at Bronx Defenders, in the Bronx, New York. Asia explains how she works with a team of social workers, parent advocates, and attorneys to best defend parents who are being charged with abuse and neglect of children. We discuss the disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown children, as well as children in poverty, who are removed from their parents, and how racism and systemic oppression set the framework of many child welfare policies and practices. Asia describes that the beautiful, diverse families in the Bronx who love their children, feel like they are under constant surveillance by the state, in the form of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). She also talks about how she got into this work, practicing self-care, and shares a message for students interested in working in the child welfare system. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   Twitter @BronxDefenders Facebook @bronxdefenders  Instagram @bronxdefenders info@bronxdefenders.org
Episode 20 Guest: Ocesa Keaton, MSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcastDownload transcript   In this episode, I talk with Ocesa Keaton, who is the Executive Director of Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. in Syracuse, New York. Ocesa details the incredibly comprehensive and thoughtful strategies H.O.P.E. uses in their anti-poverty work at both the systems and individual levels to eliminate systemic barriers that maintain inequity and prevent people from having opportunities. We discuss the racial wealth gap in the U.S. and stereotypes and inaccurate beliefs about people in poverty. Ocesa shares her journey of wanting to become an entertainment lawyer but choosing social work due to her own health issues and a social worker who helped her. She stresses the importance of policy work and why voting is critical for social change. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   greatersyracusehope@gmail.com www.greatersyracusehope.org
Episode 19 Guest: Margo Walsh Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcastDownload transcript   In this episode, I talk with Margo Walsh, who is the Founder and CEO of MaineWorks and the Chair and Co-Founder of the Maine Recovery Fund, both in Portland, Maine. We discuss how MaineWorks was created to provide jobs to convicted felons transitioning back to society from jail or prison due to the barriers they face finding employment. Margo discusses how Maine has been hit hard by drug addiction, particularly opioids, and how many of her employees have significant barriers to successful reentry to society beyond simply having a job. Margo explains the problems with the term ex-felon and how a felony conviction negatively impacts the person for life. We talk about mental health and recovery, and Margo shares her story of how she got into this work. I open up about a friend of mine who was a felon and died by suicide. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   Margo’s email: margo@maineworks.ushttps://www.maineworks.us/https://www.mainerecoveryfund.org/
Episode 18 Guest: Christopher Cuevas Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW   www.dointhework.com Listen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on Facebook Join the mailing list Support the podcastDownload transcript   In this episode, I talk with Christopher Cuevas, who is the Executive Director of QLatinx in Orlando, Florida. They talk about how QLatinx was created in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016. Chris shares about the intense pain and healing that took place, and discusses the longstanding systemic oppression faced by the LGBTQ+ Latinx community – the barriers to access culturally competent mental health services; marginalization from the white, middle-class LGBTQ community; and lack of protection under federal and state law. This is a powerful story of how LGBTQ+ folks of color came together to create a powerful grassroots racial, social, and gender justice organization dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of Central Florida's LGBTQ+ Latinx community and the continued work they are doing. I hope you enjoy the conversation.   QLatinX Website & Social Media Links https://www.qlatinx.org/                                  http://www.facebook.com/qlatinx http://www.instagram.com/qlatinx                 http://www.twitter.com/qlatinx   Christopher’s Email & Social Media Links christopher@qlatinx.org                                   http://www.facebook.com/chrisjaycuevas http://www.twitter.com/chrisjaycuevas         http://www.instagram.com/chrisjaycuevas
Episode 17 Guest: Leili Lyman Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSWwww.dointhework.comListen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on FacebookJoin the mailing listSupport the podcastDownload transcriptIn this episode, I talk with Leili Lyman from Richmond, California. Leili explains how she learned how to conduct Youth Participatory Action Research at the RYSE Youth Center while she was in high school, and that her research explored why marijuana was the primary coping strategy for youth in her community. We discuss what led youth to state that they did not feel safe talking to adults and that marijuana was a safer option. Leili talks about issues that are common for youth growing up in Richmond, such as experiencing trauma, a lack of resources, and stigma and other barriers towards counseling. Leili also shares about her current studies and research at UC Berkley as well as being a first-generation college student. I hope you enjoy the conversation. Leili’s email: leililyman0705@berkeley.edu Article in Chronicle of Social Change: https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/child-trauma-2/why-do-so-many-youth-use-marijuana-as-a-coping-tool-heres-what-youth-had-to-say RYSE Center: https://rysecenter.org
Episode 16 Guest: Elissa Hardy, LCSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW www.dointhework.comListen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on FacebookJoin the mailing listSupport the podcastDownload transcriptIn this episode, I talk with Elissa Hardy, who is the Community Resource Manager at the Denver Public Library in Denver, Colorado. Elissa details the evolution of library social work and how social workers and peer navigators work with librarians to serve diverse populations across twenty-six total locations. We discuss the work Elissa and her team carry out providing social work services to library customers experiencing a range of issues such as homelessness, immigration and refugee status, gentrification, access to benefits, mental health, reentry from incarceration, and much more. Elissa explains how her team has been able to intervene with people struggling with addiction, specifically opioid use, and how they have stopped over 23 overdoses. She also shares her story of how she got into this work. I hope you enjoy the conversation. Elissa’s email: ehardy@denverlibrary.org Denver Public Library website: http://denverlibrary.org
Episode 15 Guest: Daniella Levine Cava, MSW, JD Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSWwww.dointhework.comListen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on FacebookJoin the mailing listSupport the podcastDownload transcriptIn this episode, I talk with Daniella Levine Cava, who is a Miami-Dade County Commissioner, serving District 8 in Miami, Florida. We discuss Daniella’s current work as a County Commissioner, her social work background, including the creation of the Human Services Coalition, now Catalyst Miami, and her transition to political office. Daniella shares how her social work background helped her campaign and how she implements social work values and principles in her political work. She encourages people – especially social workers – to “grow their civic muscle” on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I hope you enjoy the conversation.https://twitter.com/DLCAVAhttp://www8.miamidade.gov/global/government/commission/district08/home.page
Episode 14 Guest: Ronnita Waters, LCSW Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSWwww.dointhework.comListen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on FacebookJoin the mailing listSupport the podcastDownload transcriptIn this episode, I talk with Ronnita Waters, who is the Program Operations Administrator at the Center for Family and Child Enrichment, Inc. in Miami, Florida. Ronnita is also the South Florida Area Coordinator for Florida State University College of Social Work and an adjunct professor at Florida Memorial University. We discuss the child welfare system, foster care, family preservation, and various interventions that take place for children and families in this complex system. Ronnita takes us through an example of what happens when child abuse is reported. She also talks about the challenges of this work for her and how she has learned to “self-check” and “regulate” her emotions and thoughts in order to focus on the needs of the children and families. Ronnita shares her story of how she got into this work and the impact of her life experience on her work. I hope you enjoy the conversation. Ronnita’s email: RJW.msw@gmail.com
Episode 13 Guest: Valerie Berrin Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSWwww.dointhework.comListen/Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Follow on Twitter & Instagram, Like on FacebookJoin the mailing listSupport the podcastDownload transcriptIn this episode, I talk with Valerie Berrin, who along with her sister Risa Berrin, is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Health Information Project, Inc. – known as HIP – a Miami, Florida based organization delivering a peer-to-peer model of health education in high schools. We discuss the importance and effectiveness of HIP’s model and how they were able to partner with the public school district as well as independent private schools to have HIP in 58 high schools in Miami-Dade County, serving 34,000 ninth graders during this school year alone. Valerie shares how she and her sister created HIP out of a mix of their own personal and professional experiences. I hope you enjoy the conversation.https://behip.org/http://www.twitter.com/hiphealthyhttp://www.instagram.com/hiphealthyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U990hPJrWdE
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