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Over the weekend, thousands gathered in Washington D.C. for the “Justice Or Else” rally which called for an end to anti-Black racism, and marked the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. A host of activists and celebrities including Snoop Dogg, Sean Combs, Common, and Russell Simmons were in attendance, but many wondered if this rally, would result in actual changes in the lives of Black folks.

Like the original Million Man March, the “Justice or Else” rally was organized by the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, who gave a wide-ranging, two-hour speech praising Black Lives Matter organizers and protestors and issuing several demands, including “an immediate end to police brutality and mob attacks” as well as land.

During his speech, Farrakhan admonished men who “disrespect a female” because women are of God; told Black men and women to stop using the word “bitch” because “every woman is from the creator;” and instructed women to cover themselves and to steer clear of aborting “the next Malcolm X or Martin Luther King.”

While it was great to see such a large gathering of peaceful Black folks come together to demand justice, I couldn’t help but ask….now what?

After the original Million Man March, which was billed as “a day of atonement” for Black men, not much has changed. Black folks are still being swept up into prisons, police violence continues to be a problem, many of our schools are failing, and the wealth gap between Black and white Americans has continued to widen.

Twenty years after Farrakhan implored Black men to step up and take responsibility for the Black family and the state of Black folks in America, we still find ourselves facing difficult challenges.

During his speech, Farrakhan acknowledged the seduction of just showing up at the rally and not doing much else.

“If this is a day, and we come out doing what we were doing before we got here, then this is vanity,” he told the crowd.

Twenty-years after the original Million Many March it’s difficult to point to concrete wins from the day, but will the “Justice or Else” rally be any different, or will it be, as Farrakhan cautioned, an exercise in vanity?

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