We are saddened to hear of the death of Congressman Payne. Raised in Newark and a graduate of Seton Hall University, he was the first African American to represent New Jersey in Congress. He served as a Member of the House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 10th District since 1989, was an ardent spokesman for education, served as Chairman of the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, and worked on behalf of human rights issues throughout the world.
We last saw Congressman Payne at our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance this past January. He joined the Coalition and our community members nearly every year for this event. We feel especially honored that he chose to be present at this occasion given the state of his health at the time.
Over the years, the congressman demonstrated his support of the Coalition on Race’s work on integration. He encouraged us each year to apply for federal funds for our work promoting parent engagement in the schools to help ameliorate the achievement gap. And, he donated a private lunch and tour with him in DC for our auction to help the Coalition raise funds. Moreover, he continually encouraged the Coalition’s grassroots work to build a racially integrated suburb and used these efforts as an example to others.