Tag Archives: Faith

Pilgrimage to keep immigrant families together stops at ISKCON temple

Families of Cile Precetaj and Ded Rranxburgaj fight deportation to Albania

A 90 mile march from Detroit to Lansing in support of immigrant families in Michigan faced with deportation concluded its second day with a dinner at the ISKCON Temple in Farmington Tuesday. On Monday, the “Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together” left Central United Methodist Church where Ded Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary rather than be taken from his wife, Flora and two sons, Eric and Lorenc. Ded is the primary caregiver for Flora who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and relies on a wheelchair. He hasn’t been able to leave the church even when his Flora had to be taken to the hospital.

“This pilgrimage is about educating people about the broken immigration system and specifically shining the light on the Rranxburgaj family and their plight.” Said Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church. “People have no idea how immoral the system is that would separate a caregiver from his wife who has MS for 11 years. We will end at Lansing where we will meet with legislators to change the systems that oppress!”

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When the pilgrims arrived in Farmington, they met Mikey, Megan and Martina, the children of Cile Precetaj, an Albanian woman awaiting deportation in St. Claire County jail. Her kids had a message for Rebecca Adducci, the regional director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): “Please don’t destroy our futures. Give our mom back.”

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The Birmingham Temple has also been a comfort to immigrant families in distress. “For almost nine months our congregation has been helping a Syrian refugee family whose father was deported leaving mom and four young children behind.” Said Rabbi Jeffrey Falick. “Our original goal was to help them navigate their way to becoming Americans. This goal took a sad turn when this administration cruelly withdrew the family’s temporary protected status which allowed mom to work while they applied for asylum. This left the family with no income whatsoever. Since then our congregation has raised almost $10,000 which, together with funding from ACCESS and its donors, has kept the family alive. This sad story is all too typical of what is now happening in our country to people who sought nothing more than relief from the horrors of war.”

IMG_7319Farmington and Farmington Hills State Representative Christine Grieg (D-37) was inspired by the activism and encouraged the pilgrims to carry on. “Our community can lead the way to change. By showing the solidarity that we have here tonight, by taking it to the streets, by taking it to the polls, we can change the direction of the state and of the country.” Rep Grieg said.

The pilgrimage will begin again Wednesday as the group continues up Grand River Ave. towards New Hudson where they will next share stories over a potluck dinner in James F. Atchison Memorial Park.

Ded Rranxburgaj Sends Off Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together

Faith leaders march to Lansing, visit wife, Flora in hospital

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Ded Rranxburgaj, an Albanian immigrant, waved goodbye from Central United Methodist Church, where he has taken sanctuary from deportation, as Rev. Jill Zundel and other faith leaders began a nine-day march to Lansing on his behalf to ask the director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, Rebecca Adducci, to grant Ded a Stay of Removal and stop separating families.

Rranxburgaj had been allowed to stay in the United States to take care of his wife, Flora, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), under immigration policies prior to the presidency of Donald Trump. As Trump enacted changes, Rranxburgaj was forced to take sanctuary at the church with his wife, Flora, and two sons.

Flora had planned to start the pilgrimage along with the family’s advocates but was hospitalized after becoming ill over the Mother’s Day weekend due to her MS. The first stop of the pilgrimage was visiting Flora at the hospital, where she is recovering.

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“It is so terrible that my wife is sick in the hospital, and I cannot be there with her. Every time she had to go to emergency over the past 11 years, I always went with her. But now, I cannot leave this church, and that is very hard,” said Rranxburgaj.

“This is the second time we have called 911 since they took sanctuary in January. Because ICE will deport Ded if he leaves the church, he cannot visit his wife in the hospital, so we must visit her for him. And that is what this pilgrimage to keep families together is about. Ded can’t march to Lansing for himself, so we must march for him,” said Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor of Central United Methodist Church, where Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary. “They have taken away his freedom, and Flora’s dignity, so we must act for them.”

Dozens of supporters left the church to begin the 90-mile march to Lansing with signs in support of the Rranxburgaj family and ending deportations.

“I don’t know what I would do if my husband was deported. Who would take care of me? Who would take me to the hospital? I don’t know why ICE is doing this to me, to my family,” said Flora Rranxburgaj.

Supporters will make stops each day to tell the family’s story and show support for other immigrant families separated by deportation.

THE PILGRIMAGE TO KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER

Detroit to Lansing
Schedule of Events:  May 14th – May 22nd, 2018

A 90-mile “Pilgramage to Keep Families Together” from Detroit to Lansing is kicking off Monday morning. Michigan United and allied immigrant communities will join supporters of an Albanian American family in sanctuary in a Detroit church for the journey.  The church where the event will begin is also where Ded Rranxburgaj (RAHNS-bur-guy) has sought sanctuary from deportation. The goal of the 90-mile trek is to seek justice and a stay of deportation for Ded, the sole caretaker for his wife Flora, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair for mobility. He is also the sole breadwinner for the family which includes two teenagers.

The group of immigrant families and other immigrant rights advocates plan to march into Lansing on Tuesday, May 22 with multiple stops and events along the way, including a few in Detroit. The events will be led by different immigrants impacted by deportation, they will tell their stories, educate the public attendees about the immigration system, and provide opportunities for advocacy to stop deportations, including the deportation of Rranxburgaj.

MONDAY 5/14

11:00AM Event:   Send-off from the Sanctuary

Speakers: Ded Rranxburgaj, Flora Rranxburgaj, Rev. Jill

Walk with us:  11:30AM-5:00PM

10.9 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. to Evergreen Road

Shuttle to Event Location from corner of Grand River & Evergreen to Brightmoor UMC

provided by Arthur and Mary Park

5:00PM Event:   Supporting Immigrants in Detroit

Brightmoor Aldersgate UMC, 2065 Outer Drive West, Detroit

Speakers: Flora Rranxburgaj, ABISA

Shuttle to Vehicles provided by Arthur and Mary Park, Carmen Kelly at 6:00PM.

Dinner provided by members of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church – Bloomfield Twp.

TUESDAY 5/15

Arrive at 10:15AM: ISKCON Farmington Hills Temple, 36600 Grand River Ave, Farmington

Shuttle to starting location of Grand River & Evergreen provided by the Birmingham Temple

Walk with us:  11:00AM-6:00PM

9.9 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from Grand River & Evergreen to ISKCON Temple in

Farmington. Lunch will be provided.

6:00PM Event:   Supporting Immigrants in our Community with our State Legislators

ISKCON Farmington Hills Temple, 36600 Grand River Ave, Farmington

Speakers: Flora Rranxburgaj, Peter Gojcevic, Rabbi Jeff Falick, 

Dinner provided by Birmingham Temple

WEDNESDAY 5/16

Arrive at 9:15AM: James F. Atchison Memorial Park, 58000 Grand River Ave, New Hudson

Walk with us:  10:00AM-6:00PM

11.7 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from ISKCON Temple to James Atchison Memorial Park

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action Potluck

James F. Atchison Memorial Park, 58000 Grand River Ave, New Hudson – Pavilion 1

Dinner provided by Indivisible Huron Valley

THURSDAY 5/17

Arrive at 11:15AM: First UMC, 400 E Grand River Ave, Brighton

Walk with us:  12:00PM-6:00PM

8 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from James Atchison Memorial Park to First UMC Brighton

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action

First UMC, 400 E Grand River Ave, Brighton

Speakers: Ded & Flora Rranxburgaj (Skype)

Dinner provided by First UMC Brighton at 6:00PM.

FRIDAY 5/18

Arrive at 10:15AM: Howell, MI; exact location TBD

Walk with us:  11:00AM-6:00PM

10.3 Miles – Up Grand River Ave from First UMC Brighton to Howell location

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action

Speakers: Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj (Skype)

SATURDAY 5/19

Arrive at 11:15AM: Fowlerville, MI; exact location TBD

Walk with us:  12:00PM-4:30PM

7.8 Miles – Up Grand River Ave from Howell to Fowlerville

SUNDAY 5/20

8:30AM Event:   Mass and Coffee Hour

St. Agnes Catholic Church 855 E Grand River Ave, Fowlerville

Walk with us:  10:30AM-4:30PM

11.6 Miles – Up Grand River Ave from Fowlerville to Williamston

MONDAY 5/21

Arrive at 10:15AM: All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing

Walk with us:  11:00AM-5:00PM

11.3 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from Williamston location to All Saints Episcopal Church, East Lansing

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action

All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing

Speakers: Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj (Skype), Action of Greater Lansing,

TUESDAY 5/22

Walk with us:  10:00AM-12:00PM

4 Miles – Along E. Michigan Ave. from East Lansing to Lansing

12:00PM Event:   Pilgrimage Finale & New American Dreams Launch at the Capitol City Hall Plaza, 124 W. Michigan Ave, Lansing

 

Immigrant Families & Advocates Press for Rights at May Day Rally

Coalition demands rights for all working families

Clark Park was the gathering site for a large coalition of groups calling for immigration reform on May Day, International Workers Day. Michigan United was part of the coalition that insists the rights of working families are crucial regardless of ethnicity, immigration status or national origin. Flora Rranxburgaj who has multiple sclerosis (MS) spoke at the rally. Flora is the wife of Ded Rranxburgaj who is her sole caretaker and the family’s breadwinner. Ded is also in sanctuary at Central United Methodist church as protection against his being deported and depriving his wife of care and their two teen sons of their father. Flora and the pastor at the church where Ded is in Sanctuary both spoke out about the role of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I have been sick with MS for 11 years, and my husband takes care of me every day, said Flora whose immigrant husband is in sanctuary. “ICE is trying to split us apart and we are asking the director, Rebecca Adducci, for help. So far, she is still trying to split us apart. It is not right. This should not happen to any family.”

The Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor at the church that granted the family sanctuary, also spoke out about the necessity of keeping the family together. Rev. Zundel also made note of an upcoming march to fight for the rights of all endangered immigrant families.

“When our church saw that families were being separated by deportation, we decided to stand up and be leaders for unity!” said Rev. Zundel. “We have fought hard for the Rranxburgaj family, but so far ICE is still trying to tear them apart. We know that can’t happen, for Flora’s sake, so we will keep fighting.  We also know that they aren’t the only ones being torn apart by ICE, so we will keep fighting until we can keep all families together! On Monday, May 14, we will begin a march across Michigan to Lansing, a march to keep families together. Please join us!”

Hundreds of Letters to ICE: Save Rranxburgaj Family

Colorful copies of written pleas tied to ICE fence in face of agency’s silence

Supporters of an Albanian American family currently in sanctuary in a Detroit church delivered more than 700 letters to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office on Jefferson. The letters ask that ICE officials grant a Stay of Removal to Ded Rranxburgaj (RAHNS-bur-guy), the sole caregiver to his wife, Flora who is stricken with Multiple Sclerosis. The illness has confined Flora to a wheelchair. Copies of the letters on colored paper were left on the agency’s fence in the face of ICE’s stony silence in response to the hundreds of people asking that the Rranxburgaj family to be spared.

“We’ve received letters from children as young as 6, and people as old as 92,” said Caitlin Homrich-Knieling, organizer at Michigan United, “We’ve received letters from people from all over the world, from Christians, Muslims, and Jews. From brain surgeons, teachers, and high schools students. It’s been incredible seeing how everyone supports this family, and wants them to stay together.”

Among the letters were pleas for the Director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, Rebecca Adducci, to “open her heart” and “do what’s right,” quotes from the Statue of Liberty, and personal stories from people whose loved ones have MS.

 “Like Flora, my son Josh has MS,” said the letter from Pastor Alan Casillas, Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Imlay City, “MS is a terrible disease that steals away a person’s mobility. As a father who has a son with MS, I cannot imagine being deported and leaving my son to fend for himself or leaving him in the care of others. I can only imagine how scary the thought of being deported must be on Ded, Flora, Lorenc, and Eric.”

Photo courtesy Cherie Horrigan-Happy
Photo courtesy Cherie Horrigan-Happy

“Rebecca Adducci must give Ded a stay of removal, it’s the only moral thing to do.” said Rev. Jill Zundell, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church. “It has been 8 weeks that the family has been living in sanctuary, and it has been very, very hard on them. Every day that passes, Ded wonders if ICE is going to force him to abandon his wife and sons. But they deserve, like any American family, to be free and to have peace. Especially in their time of need, while Flora’s MS is getting worse. What ICE is doing, continuing to threaten Ded’s deportation, isn’t right. The Field Director of ICE, Rebecca Adducci, has the opportunity right now to be the light in their time of darkness by giving Ded a Stay of Removal. If she doesn’t, ICE is heartless.”

An immigrant facing deportation, Ded Rranxburgaj declared sanctuary at Central United Methodist Church, along with his wife, in January. The Rranxburgaj family, originally from Albania, has been living in the United States for 17 years. During those years, Ded has worked tirelessly at a local restaurant and in construction to support his family. His older son, Lorenc, attends the University of Michigan Dearborn, and his younger son, Eric, attends Southgate High School. Flora, fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis 11 years ago, and Ded has cared for her ever since.

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Church offers sanctuary to immigrant, vows to shelter woman from deportation

Community rallies to keep family together

Members of the First Congregational church in Kalamazoo stood with their pastor and other community leaders to announce they would offer sanctuary in their church to Saheeda Perveen Nadeem on the day she was supposed to be deported to Pakistan. Saheeda will live in the church until her advocates can arrange a stay of removal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Saheeda‘s 20 year old son, Samad will be protected under the DACA program until 2019, but If she is deported, he will have to move to a country he’s never been to before or she will have to find a way to support herself without any help from family.

“My mother is a very integral part of the Kalamazoo community. Through her ongoing work with some of the most vulnerable members of this community she has shown that not only does she consider this her home, but she contributes to it many times over.” said Samad. “This deportation would not only be a great personal loss but a crippling blow to Kalamazoo as a whole.”

Saheeda left Pakistan as a teenager to find work in Kuwait. She came to America with her husband and two young children. Since then, Saheeda has divorced. Her daughter , Lareb died in a tragic car accident and is buried in a Kalamazoo graveyard that she visits every day. Saheeda has worked as a full time caregiver at Community Living Options and Bethany Christian Services.

“ICE may exercise its discretion to continue to allow Ms. Nadeem to remain in the United States as they have since 2012.” said the family’s immigration attorney, Bradley Maze. “She continues to be a law-abiding, productive and valued member of the community, so there is no reason why ICE should suddenly determine that she no longer merits the exercise of discretion moving forward. This is inhumane, bad policy which is detrimental to the wider community.”

“We have no doubt what Jesus would have us do.” said Rev. Nathan Dannison, Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. “In the 1850s our congregation boldly defied the Fugitive Slave Act and sheltered Americans fleeing the terrorism of slavery. Today, we will honor this history by continuing to stand on the side of the Gospel, on the right side of history, with the children of God.”

Gutierrez, Dingell and Lawrence visit immigrant family in sanctuary

Representatives call for stay of removal to keep Rranxburgaj family together

Three members of Congress visited an immigrant facing deportation, Ded Rranxburgaj, and his wife, Flora Rranxburgaj, this afternoon at Central United Methodist Church, where the Rranxburgaj family has taken sanctuary from deportation. They were joined by Cindy Garcia. The Congresspeople and Garcia met with the family and church leaders, publicly asking ICE to give Ded a Stay of Removal.

“The Rranxburgaj family’s story shows us just how broken this immigration system is,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL4). “Ded Rranxburgaj has tried to get legal permanent status and he is an asset to his community and his family and should be able to get status here.  But instead, our immigration bureaucracy and deportation machine are undermining American families and communities.  ICE should grant him a Stay of Removal, at the very least. His family needs him.”

“We need to have comprehensive immigration reform,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI12) who represents the Downriver Detroit area where the Rranxburgaj family has lived for the past 14 years. “This is a family that is being torn apart. Flora’s Multiple Sclerosis requires that someone provide intensive care for her every single day, and that person is Ded. He has been trying to gain legal status for years, and we must have processes that deal with very human situations like this. I am committed to working with Congressman Gutiérrez and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

“The immigration system that we have here in the United States is broken. We must take action where needed to build a system that truly defines our country as a nation of immigrants,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI14). “Ded is a man who has lived here for 17 years, worked hard, paid his taxes, cared for his family, and does not represent a threat to society. Families like the Rranxburgaj’s need to have an avenue to get legal permanent status. Until we find a comprehensive fix, ICE must grant Ded a Stay of Removal.”

“We have been here for 45 days, and every day is terrifying,”  said Ded Rranxburgaj.  “Just two weeks ago, my wife Flora had a medical emergency and we had to call 911. An ambulance took her to the hospital and she had to go to the hospital with volunteers, since the boys were at school.  I had to stay here. That was really difficult.  I can’t imagine how ICE expects me to abandon her here. She would be alone, struggling. This is what MS is and my wife needs me. My family needs me. I vowed before God to take care of her in sickness and in health, and I will not abandon her.”

“I am very appreciative of all the people from the church who have taken care of us and who have written letters to ICE, asking them to not rip our family apart,” said Flora Rranxburgaj. “It would be a death sentence for me if they deport my husband. I need him and it is too horrible to think about if they deport him.”

“I am glad that Representatives Lawrence, Dingell, and Gutierrez have stepped up to support this family,” said Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor of the church. “I wish we’d see this sort of leadership from all of Michigan’s elected officials. This family and our church are being leaders in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, and any representative who wants a solution to our broken immigration system should be looking to Ded and Flora’s courage and vision for guidance.”

“Deportation is never a solution. It only creates more problems,” said Cindy Garcia, whose husband’s deportation on MLK Day, January 16th, creating waves of disgust across the U.S.  “When they deported my husband, it devastated me and my children, and that is having a ripple effect in our community. ICE is targeting people who should not be deported, good family-oriented people who are needed in their communities. The Rranxburgaj family needs to stay together, and so do all immigrant families. There should be a pathway for people like us to apply for citizenship, and that pathway doesn’t exist right now.” Garcia is using her situation to create a non-profit to assist families who are being torn apart by deportation.

“The Albanian Community stands behind the Rranxburgaj family, and we appreciate the support of Central United Methodist Church and Congresspeople Gutierrez, Lawrence, and Dingell,” said Father Ndue Gjergji, priest of Our Lady of Albanians Catholic Church in Southfield. “We hope that ICE can see how terrible it would be to tear this family apart, and choose to keep them together instead.”

The Rranxburgaj family, originally from Albania, has been living in the United States for 17 years. During those years, Ded has worked tirelessly at a local restaurant and in construction to support his family. His older son, Lorenc, attends the University of Michigan Dearborn, and his younger son, Eric, attends Southgate High School. His wife, Flora, fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis 11 years ago, and Ded takes care of her. They have been living in the church for 45 days, since they declared sanctuary on January 17th, 2018.

Grand Rapids immigrant rights advocates respond to SOTU address

A clean Dream Act must be the focus

Members of the West Michigan Coalition for Immigration Reform gathered the day after President Trump’s State of the Union address to react to the proposed policies he presented. Trump wants to make aid for immigrant youth known as “Dreamers” to be dependent on increased border security and reduced legal migration. Advocates who spoke Wednesday at the Iglasia Misionaera de Cristo church disagree.

“We want a clean Dream Act, separate from the rest of President Trump’s immigration reforms.” said Rev. Justo Gonzalez. “As a man of faith, I stand on the side of justice. While we applaud the president’s path to citizenship for these young people, we are concerned that it will be done on the backs of other immigrants.”

While the President’s proposal increases the number of eligible participants under the Obama era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program  from about 800 thousand to 1.8 million, the path to citizenship would take more than a decade to complete. At the same time, opportunities for family reunification would be reduced by preventing American citizens and Legal Permanent Residents from sponsoring their parents and adult children to get family visas, despite the long arduous process that often takes years or decades. In addition Trump is seeking to end the diversity visa lottery that offers a limited number of visas from countries that don’t normally immigrate to the U.S.

“We need to stop being afraid of speaking out.” said Daniel Corecheo, one of the many DACA recipient in danger of losing protections before the program expires completely in March. “We have been afraid to speak out up until now. We have been afraid of losing the little that we have, but if we don’t stand up now, we will lose everything.”

Detroiters pray for release from Marathon refinery pollution

Vigil held in hope that God touch the heart of CEO to treat residents fairly

Under blustery, grey skies Thursday evening, the faithful gathered outside the Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery in Southwest Detroit to pray for a release for those who live in the polluted conditions around the plant. As the chimney stacks of the coker belched smoke and flames that filled the night sky, area clergy delivered a message similar to Moses’: Let my people go.

“Opening my windows when it is warm outside is not an option for me,“ said lifetime resident John Atkins. “The refinery air smells horrible.  Marathon should buy my home so I can enjoy the rest of my years.“

In 2012, the refinery underwent a $2.2 billion expansion. Marathon purchased the homes in the predominantly white neighborhood of Oakwood Heights. But despite the cries of the people, the corporation has refused to treat their black neighbors as fairly as they did their white neighbors.

Emma Lockridge, the Michigan United environmental justice organizer that spearheaded the vigil, almost didn’t go, having struggled all week with breathing issues. Lockridge went to the doctor with respiratory distress after filming a flaring incident at the refinery.

During the prayers, residents held white crosses that said ‘Exodus’ on the front with the names of friends and family impacted by the air pollution on the back. “We pray Marathon CEO Gary R. Heminger will act in a just manner and purchase our homes,“ Lockridge said. “It would be the righteous thing to do.“

New Christian, Muslim Coalition Launches with March

Coalition to focus on American traditions of diversity and religious freedom
Faith leaders and congregants from local Christian and Muslim communities took to the streets Sunday in a display of unity to uplift basic human dignity and counter recent attacks on refugees, Muslims and immigrants. “Neighbors Building Bridges” launched its campaign for interfaith and intercultural understanding with a march that began in Southwest Detroit at St. Gabriel’s Church, included the American Muslim Society in East Dearborn and ended at UAW Local 600.

Mario Hernandez hero“The Muslims of East Dearborn and the Christians of Southwest Detroit are neighbors who face many of the same challenges since the presidential election,” said Mario Hernandez, an immigrant parent fighting to stop his deportation. “But, working together with like-minded allies, we can strengthen our communities and work to overcome the racism and xenophobia that are ever present. We are people of faith who want to keep immigrant families like mine together and we see our adherence to faith as a way to combat bigotry and prejudice.”

The group, made of many people from different faiths and backgrounds, sees itself as being rooted in the great American traditions of diversity and religious freedom.

“When we look at the diversity of the people who make up our communities, we should be reminded that this nation was founded by immigrants many of whom were seeking the right to worship without persecution,” said Khalid Turaani, President of the American Muslim Leadership Council. “We are following the examples set in our respective faith traditions of welcoming the stranger and providing a place of refuge for those in need. It just so happens those are core American values as well. We want to be clear that refugees, immigrants and people of all faiths are welcome here.”
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Photo courtesy Chloe Michaels