The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction.
This is another example of the failure of Black Religious Leadership to properly guide and represent Black people, and their interest, instead of looking out for themselves. Maybe they need to spend time reading and understanding these two verses in their Bibles, Jere 23:1-2, Matt 7:15. I think the religious need to always forgive people that don’t ask for forgiveness, or show repentance, is sick and misguided.
Read the article below and leave your comments.
WASHINGTON — A group of black pastors Monday criticized African-American opponents of attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions for demonizing the Alabama Republican, instead characterizing him as someone who shows “respect and care for people of all races.”
The ministers are holdout Sessions supporters in a much larger crowd of opponents among Southern black clergy and African-American and civil rights groups, including the North Carolina Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Alabama NAACP and the activist group PICO, which uses congregations and churches to help in community organizing.
“There is an attempt by some to demonize people and call them racist when there is actually no proof for it,” Evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “Let me say clearly, Sen. Sessions is not a racist.”
Jackson, the pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said Sessions “worked to bankrupt the KKK in Alabama with a $7 million judgment,” and helped to desegregate the state’s public school system.
But clergy who are leaders of the African-American organizing group PICO, sent a different message Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee that will consider whether to recommend confirmation of Sessions by the full Senate. The committee will hear from Sessions on Tuesday.
Desmond Meade, president of the civil rights group Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said Sessions has not shown a strong commitment to racial equality or social justice.
“When you talk about the position of attorney general of the United States, that is an extremely powerful position, and I think it is prudent to scrutinize any individual being considered,” Meade said. “I don’t think that is a form of racism, and I’m weary of anyone that doesn’t have a sustained history of campaigning for civil rights. [Sessions] has not demonstrated a strong commitment to the restoration of civil rights.”
In 1986, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship after allegations of racism in his decisions as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. At least one former colleague testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Sessions supported the Ku Klux Klan until he realized its members used marijuana. “One of the most important factors [in confirming a nominee] in my opinion, is to have an open and honest process,” says Dr. William Merritt, North Carolina Southern Christian Leadership Conference state field director. “That gives any individual the right to present themselves in the manner that qualifies them for their job.”
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I SPEAK OF FREEDOM, 1961
For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyed by the non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to “civilise” Africa. Under this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people.
All this makes a sad story, but now we must be prepared to bury the past with its unpleasant memories and look to the future.All we ask of the former colonial powers is their goodwill and co-operation to remedy past mistakes and injustices and to grant independence to the colonies in Africa….
It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.
Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance.
Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people. Together, by mutual help, they can achieve much. But the economic developmentof the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole. A loose confederation designed only for economic co-operation would notprovide the necessary unity of purpose. Only a strong political union can bring about full and effective development of our natural resources for the benefit of our people.
The political situation in Africa today is heartening and at the same time disturbing. It is heartening to see so many new flags hoisted in place of the old; it is disturbing to see so many countries of varying sizes and at different levels of development, weakand, in some cases, almost helpless. If this terrible state of fragmentation is allowed to continue it may well be disastrous for us all.
There are at present some 28 states in Africa, excluding the Union of South Africa, and those countries not yet free. No less than nine of these states have a population of less than three million.Can we seriously believe that the colonial powers meant these countries to be independent, viable states? The example of South America, which has as much wealth, if not more than North America, and yet remains weak and dependent on outside interests, is one which every African would do well to study.
Critics of African unity often refer to the wide differences in culture, language and ideas in various parts of Africa. This istrue, but the essential fact remains that we are all Africans, and have a common interest in the independence of Africa. The difficulties presented by questions of language, culture and different political systems are not insuperable. If the need for political union is agreed by us all, then the will to create it is born;and where there’s a will there’s a way.
The present leaders of Africa have already shown a remarkable willingness to consult and seek advice among themselves. Africans have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realise that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes. To suggest that the time is not yet ripe for considering a political union of Africa is to evade the facts and ignore realities in Africa today.
The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace of the world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a political union which will also by its success, standas an example to a divided world. A Union of African states will project more effectively the African personality. It will command respect from a world that has regard only for size and influence.The scant attention paid to African opposition to the French atomic tests in the Sahara, and the ignominious spectacle of the U.N. in the Congo quibbling about constitutional niceties while the Republic was tottering into anarchy, are evidence of the callous disregard of African Independence by the Great Powers.
We have to prove that greatness is not to be measured in stockpiles of atom bombs. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.
The emergence of such a mighty stabilising force in this strife-worn world should be regarded not as the shadowy dream of a visionary, but as a practical proposition, which the peoples of Africa can, and should, translate into reality. There is a tide in the affairs of every people when the moment strikes for political action. Such was the moment in the history of the United States of America when the Founding Fathers saw beyond the petty wranglings of the separate states and created a Union. This is our chance. We must act now. Tomorrow may be too late and the opportunity will have passed, and with it the hope of free Africa’s survival.
From Kwame Nkrumah, I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology (1961)
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Has the Congressional Black Caucus Lost Its Conscience?
The activist group Color for Change charges that the CBC PAC serves corporations, not African Americans.
By David Dayen
March 2, 2016
Throughout primary season, Hillary Clinton has dominated with African Americans, winning higher percentages than Barack Obama garnered against her in 2008. This can lead to a too-pat assumption that the black community represents a monolithic voting bloc, with identical concerns and preferences. While it’s true that African Americans are empirically among the most loyal Democratic voters, the idea that there’s no daylight between millions of people makes no sense.
Organizations like Color of Change and the Black Lives Matter movement are targeting a fundamental question in the networked political era: Who gets to speak for a community.
One example of the fault lines within this large constituency presented a challenge this week to the black political leadership in Washington. Online progressive group Color of Change directly questioned the motives of the Congressional Black Caucus’s political action committee, or CBC PAC. The challenge was precipitated by a non-endorsement of high-profile black U.S. Senate candidate Donna Edwards, but it raised a much larger issue: Does the Congressional Black Caucus faithfully represent the best interests of the community at large, or instead of the corporate interests that fund it?
This campaign arm of the CBC, Color of Change charged, trades off the history and prestige of the caucus, but is dominated by corporate lobbyists. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, calls the maneuver “civil-rights washing,” much like the “greenwashing” that corporations engage in to burnish their environmental image. “Corporations give money or create alliances with civil-rights communities to avoid being held accountable for their bad practices,” Robinson says.
The CBC brand is used for multiple entities. First, there’s the congressional caucus, which dates back to 1971 and now includes 46 members, 45 of whom are Democrats (Republican Mia Love of Utah is also a member). There’s the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, nominally a research institute with a separate leadership team, which features a scholarship program, a philanthropic fund, and various other initiatives. There’s the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a “social purpose” organization engaged in voter education and leadership training. Finally, there’s the CBC PAC, launched in 1990 to increase the number of African Americans in Congress and foster black political participation.
These last three, all one step removed from the actual caucus, sadly often serve as a way to launder corporate contributions through the political system. Back in 2010, The New York Times explained that over a five-year period, the CBC Foundation had pulled in $53 million in corporate money from pharmaceutical, financial, telecommunications, and other interests. Little of that cash went to research or scholarships; the lion’s share went to glitzy conventions, golf and casino junkets, and paying off the foundation’s headquarters.
Despite the long history of the Congressional Black Caucus as an un-bought collection of socially conscious leaders, these extreme efforts to buy influence cannot help but have an impact. In recent years, CBC members have joined with Republicans to repeatedly undermine Dodd-Frank financial rules. Others have been accused of shilling for for-profit colleges. Still others formed the backbone of the fight against the (eventually passed) net-neutrality rules.
Color of Change focused on the CBC PAC because of the makeup of its 21-member board of directors, which decides political endorsements. Only eight of those directors are elected CBC members; the other 13 include two employees of the PAC and eleven corporate lobbyists. As Lee Fang laid out last month at The Intercept, these lobbyists represent dozens of firms, including student-loan servicer Navient, routinely accused of violating consumer-protection laws; Lorillard Tobacco, manufacturer of Newport cigarettes; dirty energy utilities Entergy and Energy Future Holdings; and Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of OxyContin and perhaps as responsible as any company for the opioid epidemic.
The PAC, which has raised $2.7 million since 2010, gets its funding from the biggest firms in America, like telecoms AT&T and Comcast, payday lender Cash America, mega-banks JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, minimum-wage foe the National Restaurant Association, and private-prison firm Corrections Corporation of America.
Many of these industries directly target black communities, whether through mass incarceration or the subprime lending crisis or opposing the Fight for $15. Even the white Democratic presidential candidates have disavowed private prison money; the fact that the CBC PAC cannot is disquieting. “These are corporations that we’re consistently campaigning against,” says Robinson. “They represent institutions that are not in the interest of black folks.”
While Bernie Sanders supporters criticized the CBC PAC for endorsing Hillary Clinton for President last month, the non-endorsement for Maryland’s open Senate seat is perhaps more egregious. Representative Edwards, a CBC member, is running to become only the second black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. But the PAC refused to endorse her in the primary against Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is white.
Former Congressman Al Wynn, now a corporate lobbyist and a CBC PAC board member, led the charge against endorsing Edwards, according to Politico. This is incredibly problematic; Wynn lost his seat in a primary to Edwards in 2008. “It raises all the questions that people have about Washington, and why people don’t trust Washington,” Robinson says.
When the CBC PAC endorses political candidates, it gives the mistaken impression that the caucus members made the endorsement. Congressional Black Caucus members had to correct the record by disavowing the Clinton endorsement of their own PAC within hours of the announcement.
When CBC PAC held its endorsement announcement for Clinton, Robinson says, “Nowhere in the pictures did you see corporate lobbyists at the microphone.” To Color of Change, the CBC PAC allows corporate power to brandish the shield of institutions with high regard among black people, in ways that deceive the community. In the group’s petition to members of the CBC, Color of Change demands that the caucus change the composition of the PAC board and drop ties with industries that directly harm the black community.
When asked by BuzzFeed about the Color of Change action, CBC PAC executive director Benjamin Branch (himself a former telecom lobbyist) declined to comment.
Organizations like Color of Change and the Black Lives Matter movement, which sit outside the political power base and can criticize the gatekeepers, have always operated as a spur to hold leaders accountable. And they are targeting a fundamental question in the networked political era: Who gets to speak for a community?
It can be uncomfortable to criticize an organization that has persevered for decades as the “Conscience of the Congress.” But when the CBC tries to play an inside game and falls under the spell of big money, the credibility it’s worked so hard to sustain—and which corporations want desperately to tap into—can vanish.
Robinson says he’s received a lot of thanks—privately—from members of the African American political community in Washington for taking a stand. “Just because someone’s on the PAC and works as a lobbyist doesn’t mean they’re not a good person,” he says. “But it does mean they’re compromised. If we don’t raise this issue, then we lose our moral authority.”Post Views: 1,507
This is the second in a series of dialogues with philosophers on violence for The Stone. This conversation is with George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University and author, editor, co-editor of many books, including “Look, a White!” — Brad Evans
Brad Evans: In response to a series of troubling verbal attacks you recently received following your essay in The Stone in December, “Dear White America,” the American Philosophical Association put out a strongly worded statement criticizing the bullying and harassment of academics in the public realm. But beyond this, shouldn’t we address the broader human realities of such hateful speech, and in particular, how this sort of discursive violence directly impacts the body of the person attacked?
George Yancy: Your point about discursive violence is an important one. Immediately after the publication of “Dear White America,” I began to receive vile and vitriolic white racist comments sent to my university email address, and verbal messages sent to my answering machine. I even received snail mail that was filled with hatred. Imagine the time put into actually sitting down and writing a letter filled with so much hate and then sending it snail mail, especially in our world of the Internet.
The alarming reality is that the response to “Dear White America” revealed just how much racism continues to exist in our so-called post-racial America. The comments were not about pointing out fallacies in my position, but were designed to violate, to leave me psychologically broken and physically distraught.
Words do things, especially words like “nigger,” or being called an animal that should go back to Africa or being told that I should be “beheaded ISIS style.” One white supremacist message sent to me ended with “Be Prepared.” Another began with “Dear Nigger Professor.”
The brutality and repetitiveness of this discursive violence has a way of inflicting injury. Given the history of the term “nigger,” it strikes with the long, hate-filled context of violence out of which that term grew. This points to the non-spectacular expression of violence. The lynching of black people was designed to be a spectacle, to draw white mobs. In this case, the black body was publicly violated. It was a public and communal form of bloodlust. There are many other forms of violence that are far more subtle, non-spectacular, but yet painful and dehumanizing. So, when I was called a “nigger,” I was subject to that. I felt violated, injured; a part of me felt broken.
Only now have I really begun to recognize how discourse designed to hurt can actually leave its mark. I recall after reading so many of these messages I began to feel sick, literally. So, words can debilitate, violate, injure; they can hit with the force of a stick or a stone and leave marks on the body. In this case, I began to feel the posture of my body folding inward, as it were, under the attacks. Franz Fanon talks about this as not being able to move lithely in the world.
B.E.: How does this relate to the intellectual history of racial persecution, oppression and subordination, especially the denial of the right of black people, and specifically black intellectuals, to speak with their own voice in a public setting?
G.Y.: I shared some of the malicious discourse used against me with some very prominent white public intellectuals. We began to exchange experiences. The exchange was helpful to me; it helped me to understand what is at stake when engaging in courageous speech. What was immediately clear, though, was the absence of specifically racist vitriol directed at these white public intellectuals, which in no way downplays their pain. Yet we must bring attention to the difference, to the perils of being a black intellectual. Not only was I being attacked for my courageous speech; I was being attacked as a black man. Yet I was also being attacked as a black philosopher.
There were some very nasty remarks that were designed to question my status as a philosopher because I’m black. The implication of those messages was that to be black and a philosopher was a contradiction, because “niggers” can’t be philosophers. So, I agree; the discourse was far more pernicious. But to understand this is to come to terms with the history of white violence in this country used to control and silence black people.
To see my experience as a single episode or an anomaly is to deny the logic of the long history of white racist violence. bell hooks recalls that as a child she thought of whiteness as a site of terror. In a country in which white people would brutalize and kill a black person on a whim, that is far from irrational.
For centuries, black people lived in fear of white terror. That fear partly captures the contradiction of being black and an American. Black people were not the American “we,” but the terrorized other. The symbols of white sheets and cross burnings must be recalled. Think here of black World War II veterans who returned home from the war and were severely beaten and lynched by whites, even as they wore their uniforms. They fought against Hitler only to return home, to the land of “democracy,” to be attacked by what might be called white terrorists.
Or think here of the slave trade, the institution of American slavery, black codes, convict leasing, the lynching of black men and women and the flaying of black flesh, the castration of black men, being burned alive. Violence, within these contexts, is a specific racialized form of inculcating black people with fear and controlling their social mobility. There is nothing episodic about it; this form of white violence is historically grounded and systematic.
The coldhearted use of white violence was very effective. Not only were there actual beatings, there was the fear of possibly being beaten. So, the black imagination, though never defeated, was weakened. The lynching of a black person wasn’t just a form of theater (where the root meaning suggests a kind of “beholding”), but a way of communicating fear and terror through mass displays of violence. For someone white, the spectacle was a sport, a kind of national pastime activity, but for a black person, one could always imagine that one was next, and thereby stand in fear of what could happen at any moment.
Cornel West talks about the “death shudder” as a kind of existential moment of realization that one is finite. I think that we are all open to experience that dreadful sense of our existence coming to an end. However, when black life is forever in a “state of exception,” it is an additional weight. Black people not only experience the death shudder, but a specific kind of shudder that involves an emotional intensity that speaks to the disposability of black life.
For example, the other day, a white police officer walked into a store where I was buying some food and I remember feeling this powerful sense of wanting to flee, of feeling as if the rules and laws that are designed to govern our (white) society didn’t apply to me. I could move “too quickly,” placing my hand into my pocket to pay for my food, and my life would end just like that. The white police officer would explain how he felt “threatened” and had “reasonable” suspicion. And I would be dead.
Read previous contributions to this series.
B.E.: These connections between the continuum of racial violence and the terrors of the everyday are crucial to understanding the normalization of humiliation and the outright denial of the most basic qualities that make people feel part of a society and “human,” as such. This demands a more serious intellectual engagement with the “marking out” of the black body as incapable of philosophical thought and deliberation. Does this make a return to thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon all the more relevant in the contemporary period?
G.Y.: Yes. And racial violence takes many forms and raises larger issues. For example, Judith Butler’s concern about questions of grievability is important. Racial violence is linked to forms of racial vulnerability, disposability and our tendency as a nation to grieve the deaths of certain racialized persons and not others. The disproportionate number of poor black people affected by Hurricane Katrina, or the sentencing disparities when it comes to locking up black people for nonviolent offenses, or the shooting in the back of Walter Scott by the white police officer Michael Slager are all examples of forms of racialized disposability. They speak to how black humanity is deemed of little or no human value.
The process of marking the black body as incapable of philosophical thought is longstanding. It is one of those major myths that grew out of Europe, even as Europe championed “humanism.” The poet Aimé Césaire, through immanent critique, knew that European humanism was a farce. Of course, Jean-Paul Sartre knew this as well. And Fanon knew what it was like to embody reason and have it denied to him. In “Black Skin, White Masks,” he argued that when he was present, reason was not, and when reason was present he was no longer. So, one might argue that reason and black embodiment, from this perspective, are mutually exclusive. And yet, at the end of that text, Fanon says, “My final prayer: O my body, make me always a man who questions!”
Fanon appeals to something that is beyond abstract political rights discourse. He appeals to his own body, something concrete and immediate. Fanon asks of his body not to allow him to be seduced by forms of being-in-the-world that normalize violence and dehumanization. Doubt can be linked to critique. In a society that hides beneath the seductions of normalization, critique is undesirable and deemed dangerous. Yet in our contemporary moment, the fulfillment of Fanon’s prayer is desperately needed.
America needs a movement that transcends the civil rights movement.
These examples are manifestations of a racialized, selective misanthropy. This is why I have such a negative visceral reaction to Donald Trump’s promises to build a wall along the Mexican border. That discourse is one of labeling certain bodies as “unwanted,” “deviant,” “sub-persons.” And to say that Mexico is sending “rapists” to the United States is a form of deep insult, of marking certain bodies as violent and pathological. Trump is, sadly, able to play on the racist biases and fears in many white people. It is a divisive tactic that exploits both latent and manifest bigoted assumptions in many white Americans. It is not by accident that David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the K.K.K., supports him.
B.E.: As you point out, a conceptualization of political rights must also include the right for the marginalized to critique power. Does philosophical inquiry have to do with the ways we might reconceptualize the meaning of rights, especially considering that the denial of persons’ humanity often occurs within normative legal frameworks?
G.Y.: Absolutely. After all, slavery, which was a vicious, death-dealing and violent institution, was legal. I think that rights-based discourse is necessary, but there is this sense in which rights can be given and, by implication, taken away. Within this context, I think that America needs a movement that transcends the civil rights movement. Applicative justice might be necessary, but not sufficient. Imagine a scenario where justice is being applied across the board, and the rights of people are being upheld. In a country like ours, saturated by racism, that scenario might still involve blacks being hated, seen as “inferior,” as sub-“persons.” In such a world, white people can continue to insulate themselves from the “others.”
We are desperately in need of a movement that shakes us at the very core of how we think about ourselves as individuals, masters of our own destiny. While this isn’t philosophically fashionable, I want to know what it means to love with courage. What would it mean to make love an integral feature of moral reasoning, the kind of love that risks profound ways of being mutually vulnerable, of placing no limits on who we call our neighbors? This means radically changing how we currently relate to one another. I recall when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 that there were Americans who were cheering. As unpatriotic as some will say I’m being, we must keep in mind that bin Laden was someone’s son, father and husband.
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This speaks to the limits of our moral imagination as a nation. Can you imagine President Obama saying at a press conference that he is sorry that we killed bin Laden, that we loved him as a human being despite his violence? Can you imagine what would happen if Israelis and Palestinians were to cease their “peace” talks and radically deploy a discourse of love? Imagine the many whites who read “Dear White America” saying to me: “We return the love to you that you’ve shared with us!” I think that we are an impoverished nation when it comes to loving our “enemies.” God bless America is an empty politicized gesture if we are not also saying God bless our “enemies.”
B.E.: There is an ethical aspect to “Dear White America” — particularly the honest reflections put forward regarding your own prejudices and fallibilities when it comes to relations of power. While a critique of violence demands attention to historical forces of domination and exploitation, it also asks how each of us shamefully compromise with power, often against our better judgments.
A critique of violence must include an understanding that one doesn’t escape the many ways in which one perpetuates violence
GY: Yes. This raises the issue of complicity. As I discussed in the essay, there are ways in which I have been shaped to believe that looking at women with a dominating gaze or desiring women only for sexual pleasure is “normal.” Yet it is this process of “normalization” that produces a kind of “walking dead” mentality where many of my social practices (sexual desire being one, fixed gender role expectations being another) support the oppression of women. The process of normalization is often so effective that there isn’t much resistance coming from one’s “better judgment,” especially as one’s better judgment has already been defined by the terms of normalization.
In this case, one’s “better judgment” has already been compromised, has already become an extension of the power of normalization. Your use of the term shameful is important. Shame implies a powerful sense of disgrace. It is not limited to the assignment of blame, which is more like guilt. Shame suggests the sense of disrupting one’s ethical “certainty,” or business as usual. After all, one can be guilty without ever feeling shame. So, violence, for me, has to be attended to at those levels where we are going about our business as if we are not doing violence to other individuals.
The fact that we don’t hear cries of pain doesn’t let us off the hook. Ethical discourse and practice must be imbued with an effort to remain honest, especially about one’s own ethical shortcomings and the pain and suffering that we cause others.
A critique of violence must include an understanding that one doesn’t escape the many ways in which one perpetuates violence — violence against those who we may never see face to face, violence against those who are closest to us, violence against the earth, and perhaps even violence against one’s own sense of self-integrity.
Violence is all around us. Yet we prefer to remain asleep — the walking dead. For me, personally, the more I become aware of the magnitude of violence in our world, what many of us would rather deny or not see, the more I enter into that space of the “dark night of the soul,” a place where dread and hopelessness reside. The objective, though, is to continue, to remain awake, to keep fighting for a better world even as one endures the dark night of the soul.Post Views: 1,373