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Tag Archives: civil rights

Potential to Roll Back The New Jim Crow at the Supreme Court

Seems BTx3 isn’t the only one who sees Scalia’s death as one of the two best things that could have happened to the Supreme Court.

Sill waiting on the second…Any moment now would be fine.

Law students of color hope to see civil rights ally named to Supreme Court

Tahir Duckett, a student at Georgetown University Law Center, was 2 years old when Antonin Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986.

Naji Mujahid, who attends the University of the District of Columbia’s law school, was 4. Dominique Moore, a student at Temple University’s law school, and Stephanie Llanes, a law student at the University of California at Berkeley, had not yet been born.

Now, Scalia is gone, dying unexpectedly during a vacation last week. And for the first time in the students’ lives — three of whom are African American and one a Latina — there is a possibility of having a Supreme Court that is no longer dominated by right-wing ideologues who are astoundingly naive about racism in America.

“We mourn the death of Justice Scalia, as a fellow attorney,” said Moore, 29, the Mid-Atlantic regional chair of the National Black Law Students Association. “But we are looking for someone to fill that seat who is not a foe of civil rights and wants to see the country make progress, not take it backward.”

Next month, the 3,600-member national organization convenes in Baltimore for its annual convention. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

“We support Loretta Lynch’s appointment as the next Supreme Court justice,” Moore said.

For his part, Georgetown’s Duckett, 32, has been chronicling the harms done by the Supreme Court’s 2001 ruling in Sandoval v. Alexander. The court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits only “intentional discrimination” and does not prohibit activities that have a “disparate impact on certain races, colors, or nationalities.” Scalia wrote the opinion for the conservative majority, which included Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

“That ruling made it impossible to mount a legal challenge to structural racism and sent a message that it was okay to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics as long as you did it with a wink and a nod,” said Duckett, a member of the D.C. chapter of the legal and policy collective known as Law for Black Lives. “For more than a decade and a half, we’ve watched racial disparities widen in incarceration, in the use of the death penalty, in racial profiling, in the enforcement of drug laws, and it was legally okay just because nobody had come right out and said they were doing it intentionally.”

UDC’s Mujahid, 34, said he began studying Scalia’s thinking in 2009, while following the case of Troy Davis, a black man who had been convicted of murder in Georgia and sentenced to death. When seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony against him, Davis appealed to the Supreme Court for a new hearing and got it. But Scalia objected, writing in his dissent that “this court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

Scalia’s statement was said to be legally correct but widely regarded as morally weak. Davis was executed two years later.

“When you go into Scalia’s thinking as an ‘originalist,’ meaning someone who interprets the Constitution by divining the intent of the Framers at the time they wrote it, you can see Scalia virtually channeling 18th-century social and political sentiment on race,” said Mujahid, president of the UDC chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “If you want to go back 200 years and commune with the spirit of slave owners and ask them, ‘What do you think of black people?’ Or, ‘How do you feel about affirmative action?’ what the hell do you think they’re going to say?”

In the wake of Scalia’s death, SCOTUS blog legal expert Lyle Denniston described the 79-year-old Reagan appointee “as path-breaking as Earl Warren” and “as controversial as Roger Taney,” among other things.

But his mentioning Chief Justices Warren and Taney cries out for comparison.

The Warren Court expanded civil rights, most famously in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that banned racial segregation in public schools. The Taney Court, on the other hand, ruled infamously in the 1857 Dred Scott case that no black person, whether slave or free, would ever become a citizen.

And given Scalia’s originalist approach to the law, some legal scholars have suggested that he would probably have reached conclusions more like Taney’s than Warren’s.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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DOJ Sues Ferguson After City Tries to Waffle on Consent Decree

No surprise here. The City Council was involved in the corruption in the first place.

Meet sme of those responsible for the racist court and legal system in Ferguson, here.

Feds Drag Ferguson To Court And Throw The Constitution At It

Un-indicted murderer Darren Wilson (center – back), with his arm around Mary Ann Twitty, who was fired for racism, corruption, and misconduct as Ferguson’s Top Court Clerk

 

The deal would have brought positive change to the mostly white police force in Michael Brown’s hometown.

The Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday in an effort to end what it described as patterns of constitutional violations by the city’s police department and municipal court.

The decision comes one day after Ferguson rejected a negotiated deal that would have set the St. Louis suburb on a path toward reforming its police department.

The original deal was arranged over 11 months after the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division released a damning report last March chronicling routine patterns of constitutional abuses in the city, where an overwhelmingly white police force preyed on black residents who many officers saw “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

The report depicted a corrupt local government, in which the police department and municipal court “worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process” for several years. The Justice Department also released troubling emails from Ferguson officials that referred to President Barack Obama as a “chimpanzee” and African-Americans as having “no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”

The negotiated deal would have required several progressive changes, including pushing police to practice de-escalation tactics without using force, mandating extensive training for officers and making city officials engage with minority groups that have had negative experiences with the police department.

At a Ferguson City Council meeting on Tuesday night, all six council members voted to accept the deal only under “certain conditions,” meaning they were asking for changes. They wanted different deadlines and fees from those set forth in the original bargain. They also asked to remove a key line that would have mandated higher pay for police officers in the city, which officials have maintained the city cannot afford. The council members also wanted a provision removed that would have made the entire deal void if the city decided to contract with another law enforcement agency for policing services.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Ferguson City Council’s vote “leaves us no further choice” but to sue.

Ferguson officials had hoped to negotiate further, but knew a lawsuit was a possibility.

“We do believe these conditions maintain the spirit and integrity of the consent decree and allow the city to move forward,” Councilman Wesley Bell said at a press conference in Ferguson on Wednesday.

Bell, an attorney who helped negotiate the original deal, proposed the conditions that the council adopted unanimously. He suggested the amendments were necessary for Ferguson to continue to function after the enforcement of the consent decree.

Bell is a seasoned operator in local Missouri politics. He serves as prosecutor in Riverview, judge in Velda City and city attorney in Wellston. He was central to Wellston contracting for police services with the newly formed North County Police Cooperative, which is unaccredited.

 

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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DOJ To Investigate Chicago Police

They are going to need Elliot Ness, Melvin Purvis, and a large gang of G-Men to get anywhere close to the bottom of this one.

Al Capone, before the Chicago Police took over the corruption business, the City’s most famous gangster

Department Of Justice To Investigate Chicago Police: Report

The Department of Justice will open an investigation into potential civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department, The Washington Post first reported Sunday.

Full details of the probe are expected to be announced later this week.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Dec. 1 urgently requesting a probe into the police department. Madigan asked the DOJ to investigate issues including use of deadly force, discriminatory policing and internal misconduct to determine if they amount to civil rights violations.

Madigan called for the DOJ probe days after a court order forced the city of Chicago to release dashboard camera footage of a fatal police-involved shooting from 2014. The video shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald walking away from police before he is shot 16 times.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder on Nov. 24 over his involvement in McDonald’s shooting. The 13-month delay in bringing criminal charges and the release of the video prompted public calls for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign.

Both Emanuel and Alvarez have rebuked calls for their resignation. But hours before Madigan’s call for a federal civil rights probe, Emanuel fired his hand-picked police chief and said it was time for “fresh eyes and new leadership” after the public loss of trust in the department.

A Department of Justice official would not confirm the probe but said Sunday via email:

Civil Rights Division lawyers are reviewing the many requests for an investigation, which is the department’s standard process, and the Attorney General is briefed regularly on the review and expects to make a decision very soon.

Chicago Police News Affairs similarly sidestepped commenting on the reported probe, but said via email:

The Justice Department is currently investigating any actions and statements of CPD officers in connection with this shooting. If the criminal investigation concludes that any officer participated in any wrongdoing, we will take swift action.

The FBI, DOJ and the Independent Police Review Authority are all currently reviewing the McDonald case, including claims that police tampered withsurveillance video from a nearby Burger King restaurant that captured the shooting.

This week the city will release video of another fatal police-involved shooting that occurred just eight days before McDonald’s 2014 killing. Lawyers for the family of slain 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III said the circumstances seen on the video are similar to those in the McDonald shooting.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2015 in BlackLivesMatter, Domestic terrorism

 

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More Threats At Western Washington University – Student Arrested

Seems like old times. Back in the 60’s threats of violence against black folks during the Civil Rights Movement, and even during the transition to integration were common. My parent’s house took gunfire at one point during a school desegregation effort. Driven by right wing press, political candidates,, and white supremacist authors popular in conservative media and publications – the white right is back into the threat business. No different than the KKK of old. What gets missed here sometimes is that when you look at a picture of these campu marches, there are a lot of white faces participating, marching, and supporting. What that says the the white right has far, far less power than the media gives them credit for, and like terrorists around the world have to depend on violence as a means to affect the body politic.

Man Arrested For Allegedly Making Threats Against Black Students At Western Washington University

Most, but not all, students returned to a Washington state university Monday as police arrested a 19-year-old accused of making racial threats against black students and others on social media that shut down the campus last week.

Western Washington University police in Bellingham arrested the male student on campus and booked him into jail on suspicion of felony malicious harassment. The student has been suspended and banned from campus pending the outcome of legal proceedings and the university’s student conduct process, officials said in a news release.

At a public forum Monday about the racist remarks, one student said she had to force herself to come to the school to speak about the threats.

“Frankly, I’m exhausted. This isn’t an ‘if’ but ‘when they come after you’ situation. I’m upset that Western let it get to this point,” said Lulu Sapigao, adding that students have been saying for a long time that they don’t feel safe on campus. “I’m upset that we’re told to use the buddy system, and that’s the only way that we can maybe have safety.”

Administrators canceled classes last Tuesday, the day before the scheduled Thanksgiving break, after learning about the remarks that included threats of violence against the student body president, who is black.

The university is working with Yik Yak, an anonymous social media platform popular among college students, to turn over the names of the commenters, who posted pictures of the student body president, a gun and references to lynching and nooses. Officials said the student arrested Monday has been linked to a threat posted on the social media platform and that university police are continuing to investigate.

The long stream of posts mentioned almost every ethnic group, including blacks, Muslims, Jews and American Indians, blaming them for an effort on campus to debate changing the university’s mascot, a Viking. The threats came days after several student leaders suggested that the mascot is racist.

Most of the online comments contained racist language and profanity, making fun of the mascot debate and the students who proposed it. One post called black students crying babies and another complimented the school for having an “overtly Aryan” mascot.

At the campus forum, university President Bruce Shepard expressed concern for the student leader targeted specifically. He said he expects the people who posted the comments to likely say they were just trying to be funny and didn’t intend to hurt anybody.

“What we saw posted was merely a more public, and perhaps a bit more extreme, display of what our students of color experience daily,” Shepard said. “There is nothing funny here; these are forms of violence. It is why people understandably walk our campus in fear.”

This from right-wing hate site Brietbart. Notice that the speaker gets the entire situation wrong. Nobody “cancelled a speech” – they cancelled classes because of a death threat. The the wild accusations about being aligned with Muslims, marching with Muslims, and supporting Islamic terrorists. I assume in reaction to the Syrian Refugee situation – which has nothing to do with the current campus movement by students of all colors to remove racism from campus life. “All dem mi-norities look alike!”

Conservatism, which is now synonymous with racism…Makes you stupid.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Domestic terrorism

 

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The Fourth Founding – Civil Rights

One of my favorite, and person I consider one brightest media people is Sherrilyn Ifill. In this article she discusses the evolution of Civil Rights in terms of  America, from the “First Founding”, the emergence of the country, the Second Founding, the 13h, 14th, and 15th Amendments promising freedom and equality under the law, and the Third Founding being the post WWII period mid-Century Civil Rights Movement eliminating post Reconstruction JIm Crow.

I disagree with her belief that the current Civil Rights movement, coalesced around organizations like Black Lives Matter and Color of Change is part of the Third Founding, and would say that is is part of a Fourth. Just as the murder of Emmett Till galvanized the post-war Civil Rights Movement by laying bare the videotaped murders of black people by the Police, and the murders in Charleston have stripped away the coating of yet another teflon coated racist belief system, laying bare systemic, if not always supported by legislative protection, racism in America.

Systemic racism in America has it’s own TV, it’s own publications, and indeed political party built upon the remnants and cultural vein of the Dixiecrats of the late 40’s, and George Wallace of 1968. The Fourth Foundation in my view, not only won’t be televised, it will will be fought across the Internet. Whether in the deconstruction of the New Jim Crow of the carceral state and Voting Suppression – or the denouement of white privilege. Why? Because unlike when King marched across that bridge in Selma, there is no specific geography of systemic racism. And the “black community” is now less descriptive of a location than a shared history, culture, and values.

Freedom Still Awaits

A century and a half after Reconstruction, fights over voter suppression and police brutality reveal that it remains an unfinished project.

The Civil War and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution that were ratified in its wake created a new America as imaginative and fraught with controversy as the country founded after the Revolutionary War. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to describe this period as America’s “Second Founding.” But neither the enduring power of the Second Founding nor its limitations can be fully understood without an examination of the Third Founding—the civil-rights movement of the mid-20th century.

The extraordinary courage, vision, and commitment of civil-rights lawyers and activists in the period between 1954 and 1968 rooted an America as new and bold as the one forged from the battles of the 18th-century Revolutionary War and 19th-century Civil War. But that the battles of the civil-rights movement continued nearly 100 years after the passage of the Civil War amendments demonstrates the limitations of the rights articulated in the Reconstruction amendments, which proved to be the least self-executing of all of the Constitution’s rights-expanding amendments.

This was not lost on the framers of the Reconstruction amendments. They understood from the outset that the rights of suffrage, equal protection, due process, and freedom from slavery would need to be protected from the actions of the state and enforced by the federal government. This is, in no small measure, the essence of the Second Founding—a fundamental reordering of the relationship between the states and federal government. “States’ rights” were to be tempered and cabined where they undermined black citizenship. The powerful enforcement clauses and unequivocal “no state shall” language of the Reconstruction Amendments is the textual evidence of the framers and the clear intention to recalibrate state power in relationship to blacks.

To protect black citizenship, the Reconstruction Amendments opened a new front in the unfinished battles of the Civil War. The federal courts would do the hard work of securing the victory for newly freed slaves. As the historian Eric Foner notes in his seminal treatment of the Reconstruction period, the protections of the Civil War amendments “placed an unprecedented—and unrealistic—burden of enforcement on the federal courts.” Certainly until the Warren Court in the mid-20th century, the Supreme Court showed itself to be both unprepared and unwilling to take up the full measure of that responsibility. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s devastating 1876 decision in U.S. v. Cruikshank (in which the Court vacated the conviction of three white men who participated in the massacre of 300 blacks protecting the federal courthouse in Louisiana), the widespread white-supremacist violence in the South, and the removal of federal troops from Louisiana and Mississippi are among the leading factors that ended Reconstruction.

A decade later, when in the Civil Rights Cases the Supreme Court exhibited what the scholar Darren Hutchinson calls “racial exhaustion,” it was clear that it was simply not up to the exercise of robust enforcement power contemplated by the architecture of the Reconstruction Amendments.* Just 20 years after the end of slavery and during a period of intense white-supremacist violence, the court declared in the Civil Rights Cases that there must be a time when former slaves “cease to be the special favorite of the laws” and instead “take the rank of mere citizens.”

Ironically, the centerpiece of the Third Founding was also a Supreme Court decision—Brown v. Board of Education. The Court’s decision to strike down racial segregation in public education (and soon in all aspects of public life) began the deconstruction of Jim Crow—the system of legal apartheid that had become the principal means of enforcing 20th-century white supremacy. Brown and the civil-rights movement that followed it, ushered in the promise of a new America—one that included unprecedented opportunities for many African Americans and other racial minorities, a lexicon of equality and racial justice that endured, and black political power not seen since the early days of Reconstruction.

Yet Brown, like the Civil War amendments, faced its own opposition—a concerted movement named “Massive Resistance” by integration opponents. The resistance to Brown from Congress to towns and hamlets in the South was so rabid that counties were willing to close public schools rather than have black children attend school with white children. Black children were spat upon, cursed, and assaulted on the way to school by white teenagers and housewives. The homes of civil-rights lawyers and activists were fire-bombed.  Resistance toBrown became yet another front in the battle over black citizenship. In the courts, the battle became a war of attrition, with the Supreme Court at first robust and then increasingly cautious and timid, and ultimately hostile to the project of integration. By the time the Court decided in Milliken v. Bradley that desegregation plans could not cross city lines into suburban counties to stem the effects of white flight on integration, the project of integrated schools in urban centers was dealt a crushing blow. For good measure, the Supreme Court scuttled even voluntary integration efforts in 2006 in Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District, with Chief Justice Roberts’ tautological and tone-deaf instruction that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The decades-long resistance by whites to school integration doomed the full promise of the civil-rights movement. Massive resistance spawned even more deeply entrenched housing segregation, the abandonment of support for public institutions, white flight from U.S. cities, and a renewed hostility to the federal government. The hope held by the most visionary civil-rights leaders and activists for a unified country of racial equality has been put off for future generations, even as the vision articulated by those men and women has become central to America’s public self-narrative….Read the Rest Here

 

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Freedom Summer

For folks too young to be fully aware of what happened in the Civil Rights Movement, and grew up after the violent pernicious legalized Jim Crow racism of the 50’s and 60’s – this documentary chronicles Mississippi in 1964, through a period called Freedom Summer. One of the interesting aspects some young folks are unaware of, of this is what the segregationists did to their neighborhood white folks who in any way showed support for any of the Civil Rights groups, or even aiding people caught in the crossfire at the 1 hour mark.

The modern Republican Party in the South are the descendants of these very segregationist whites who bombed home, churches – beat and murdered Civil Rights proponents both black and white. And while their public vitriol is hidden now – they really have not changed. These are the folks who have assumed control of a large segment of the Party, and are the reason for the racial dog-whistle politics.

 

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Black Protest Music …Then and Now

SO…Has the music died, or is there just another chapter? The author of this piece argues it’s come in a circle…

Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now

By William C. Anderson

The sounds Black people make are the brick and mortar of the United States. Literally. The enslaved African’s singing was a driving force for the free labor that built a young nation and put it at the forefront of empires. Historically, Black Americans have been amongst the primary influencers of music culture. The genres that were born of Black misery, triumph, endurance, protest, and expression have changed the way the entire world sounds. But it’s undeniable that many of these songs were and still are shaped by the fatigue of the constant protest that comes with Black existence.

As the son of a Black Southern Pentecostal minister, I’ve had the privilege of sitting among the serene sounds of praise that birthed a nation of noir notes. Just about every genre that has risen to popularity is from the offspring of the Black church. If you listen closely enough, you can hear Black American beginnings on this continent in our cultural songs: one part culture, one part community, one part family, one part fear of fire and brimstone. The tears that beg to line my face when I hear Mary Pickney’s “Down on Me”, Janie Hunters’ “Jonah”, or Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over” retrace Fredrick Douglass’ words:

“I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do….The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery.”

It’s important to note that the act of this singing was more than entertainment for plantation overseers or solely expressions of sadness. In its purest form, the slave’s singing was an act of protest. Its beauty and expression transcends the pervasive hell that was the environment that allowed them to be enslaved.

Black existence is an act of rebellion in and of itself, most especially in art. Black people have sung songs amid the persistent onslaught of struggle in the United States, though not exclusively. Enslaved Africans pioneered music like Cumbia, tango, and rumba across the Americas and integrated self-defense and music in Brazil with capoeira. Here in North America, all of the elements of our African diasporic kin’s musical instincts are present in our musical traditions, too.

Since the days of chattel slavery, we’ve heard as our songs have taken different shapes, changed. Jazz’s earliest beginnings in the Congo Square of New Orleans were moments of sanctification, through the allowance of Whites for them to congregate there, to evoke their traditions and make music. Jazz has been consistent in this way over decades. Artists like Nina Simone and Charles Mingus made outspokenness a part of their reputation over the years with songs like “Mississippi Goddam” and “Fables of Faubus”. Miles Davis became the embodiment of Black protest to many through his unwillingness to bend to White standards, insistence that Black women grace his album covers, and even making a tribute to “Black Jack Johnson”. Other imaginative artists like Sun Ra created other, better worlds for Black people through their music. Some artists like Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln infused what they could into Black protests through their art. In the song “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace”, from the classic Black resistance jazz album We Insist, you can hear the waves of emotion Lincoln pours into her vocals. At one point in the song, she arguably sets a shrieking standard for punk rock before the genre officially existed, but not before evoking the symbolic moans of gospel and the blues. The revolutionary nature of Black music always comes back to that starting point.

The blues are Black survival music. While many songs deal with the everyday issues, others from blues’ earliest beginnings up to contemporary times are blatantly political. Three songs about my infamous home state of Alabama come to mind: J.B. Lenoir’s “Alabama”, Lead Belly’s “Scottsboro Boys”, and John Lee Hooker’s “Birmingham Blues”. You can find countless songs about Alabama because it was one of the starting points of the “great migration” Blacks made when they left the South fleeing oppressive violence. Furthermore, it was once the cradle of the civil rights movement and Black activism itself.

Much of the music that defines what most know as Black protest songs are civil rights era protest music. Songs like “We Shall Overcome”, “A Change Is Going to Come”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” set the stage for what many millennials like myself would come to know as the movement songs. Documentaries like Eyes on the Prize were filled with these songs as soundtrack to the brutality of White supremacist violence against Black people.

I must admit that seeing these images of Black people singing while being beaten ruthlessly felt self-defeating and depressing as a child. The eternal words of Malcolm X, “stop singing and start swinging,” come to mind. Though there should not be any diminishing of the importance of any particular type of protest music, the current Black generation has moved toward a more confrontational approach….Read the rest of this outstanding piece here

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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