Leading U.S. Africa advocate dies
By Bernadette B. Paolo
No matter where Congressman Payne traveled in his quest to help others, in his quiet, unassuming way, he made a difference.
Never one to seek the spotlight for his pivotal role in international affairs, his leadership in striving for domestic policies that benefited the poor and underserved, and his unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion for all people, Donald Payne remembered why he came to Congress and who he intended to serve without equivocating.
Congressman Payne earned and elevated the title of "public servant." He was an anomaly in so many respects-gentle and kind yet an unrelenting warrior for those who had no voice or the power to act on their own behalf. He managed not only to listen to those with needs, but to respond with precision. He took on battles early, stepping out boldly to help resolve situations whether in his district, or in Sudan or Somalia or Ireland or in any other place where people were suffering or where there were inequities. And in the process of becoming an international figure for all of his contributions, he never lost his compassion or humility; neither did he ever forego his convictions or his determination to do what was correct, never ascribing value to whether his actions were politically expedient.
All of us in the Africanist community knew that he was our "go to" person on anything having to do with the continent-whether it be a coalition on Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, or debt relief. You could count on Congressman Payne to lead the charge, to sponsor or cosponsor any legislation having to do with benefiting Africa. You could also count on him to show up-to be there in times of triumph and times of tragedy.
He was a friend of Africa, a friend of the Africanist community, and a hero to all who knew him and worked with him.
At a time when the term "politician" does not have a favorable connotation, it is important that the life and accomplishments of Congressman Donald M. Payne be known and heralded. Donald Payne was the first and remains the only African American Member of Congress in New Jersey. Donald Payne was and remains an international statesman whose legacy will demonstrate clearly the tremendous worth of his life and its impact on the lives of millions of others. Donald Payne was and remains our example, our guide and our inspiration.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, I would like to convey our sympathy to his beloved family, his dedicated staff and the many people who are mourning his passing. There will never be anyone like Congressman Donald M. Payne. He is simply irreplaceable.
Bernadette B. Paolo is President and CEO of The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa