Donald M. Payne, a native of Newark, New Jersey, was elected to represent the 10th Congressional District of New Jersey in 1988 as New Jersey’s first African American Congressman by an overwhelming majority and has been returned by a wide margin of the vote in each subsequent election. In 2008, he won election to his eleventh term to represent the 10th District in the historic 111th Congress.
In 2003, President Bush appointed Payne as one of two members of Congress to serve as a Congressional delegate to the United Nations and reappointed him in 2005 to an unprecedented second term. In this role, he has met with the U.N. Secretary General, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and regularly attended sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and other high level meetings. In the 110th Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Congressman Payne to serve on the House Democracy Assistance Commission, which provides procedural, technical, and material assistance to legislatures and their members in developing democracies around the world. Representative Payne co-founded the Malaria Caucus which was launched at an event with First Lady Laura Bush. He successfully secured $50 million for prevention, control and treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The Congressman also helped secure passage of a bill authorizing $50 billion for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
He is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and as a member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. Congressman Payne has been at the forefront of efforts to restore democracy and human rights in nations throughout the globe. He was one of five members of Congress chosen to accompany President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton on their historic six-nation tour of Africa. He also headed a Presidential mission to war-torn Rwanda to help find solutions to that country’s political and humanitarian crises. In addition, he was recognized as having the most supportive record in Congress on issues involving the Northern Ireland peace process.
Congressman Payne joined with his colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee to introduce a measure which was subsequently approved by Congress to strengthen the Microenterprise Act, providing small business loans to people in developing nations. The law contains language that directs at least half of the loans towards the poorest people – those who subsist on less than $1 a day. He was successful in winning passage of a resolution declaring genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The measure was the culmination of more than two years’ work by many churches, religious organizations, anti-slavery groups, and resettled Sudanese through broad grass-roots support. His involvement in Africa led him to meet with Darfur refugees at the camps in Chad, where he heard many of their stories first-hand. Congressman Payne also gained national recognition when he was selected to manage the debate on the floor of the House of Representatives in opposition to the use of force in Iraq before fully exploring a diplomatic solution.
Before being elected to serve as New Jersey’s first African American Congressman, his career included service on the Newark Municipal Council; the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders; as an executive of the Prudential Insurance Company; Vice President of Urban Data Systems, Inc. and an educator in the Newark public school system. A former national President of the YMCA, he served as Chairman of the World Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee. He has served on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, TransAfrica, Discovery Channel Global Education Fund, the Congressional Award Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark, the Newark Day Center, the Fighting Back Initiative and the Newark YMCA. He has received numerous awards and honors from national, international and community-based organizations, including the Visionaries Award bestowed by the Africa Society and the prestigious Democracy Service Medal, which was previously awarded to Lech Walesa, the former Polish President and founder of the Solidarity movement, by the National Endowment for Democracy.
A graduate of Seton Hall University, he pursued graduate studies at Springfield College in Massachusetts. He holds honorary doctorates from Chicago State University, Drew University, Essex County College and William Paterson University. Congressman Payne, a widower, is the father of 3, grandfather of 4 and the great grandfather of 1.
On Monday, I joined the Darfur Fast for Life because I wanted to stand in solidarity with the people of Darfur and to express my outrage at the ongoing crisis in the Sudan. In addition to my personal fasting, I am launching a Darfur Fast for Life Campaign on Capitol Hill to urge my colleagues to join me in voicing opposition to the mass atrocities al-Bashir and his regime have orchestrated against the Darfuri people. It is my hope that our fasting will compel decision makers to act more decisively to put an end to the suffering of millions of innocent men, women and children in Darfur. We must do all we can until the violence, suffering, and displacement have ended.
Congressman Donald M. Payne, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and an outspoken leader in working towards ending the suffering in Darfur and bringing lasting peace to Sudan, is joining Darfur Fast for Life. Hearing of Mia Farrow’s hunger strike and Sir Richard Branson taking the fast baton, Congressman Payne committed to fasting water-only for three days, staring Monday, May 11.