The Y and the nation have lost a great leader. Congressman Donald Payne (N.J.) passed away last week at the age of 77 after a battle with colon cancer.
Don was a powerful voice for strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Originally as a leader of the Newark YMCA and then as the first African-American board president of the National Council of YMCAs, Don championed those in need by mobilizing communities to effect lasting change.
It was his work with the Y that helped spark Don's interest in international affairs, and throughout his career, he raised awareness of critical human rights issues around the globe. He was deeply involved in the Y's refugee work, and visited more than 80 countries on behalf of the international Movement.
More recently, he was a leader in U.S.-Africa policy, making enormous contributions toward democracy across the continent. He forcefully advocated for peace in Darfur and was committed to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In 1988, Don was elected the first African-American congressman from the state of New Jersey. In Washington, he was dedicated to helping young people and those in need, working on issues ranging from the achievement gap to healthcare and families.
By any measure, Don was a trailblazer. He broke down racial barriers and sought to give everyone the opportunity to realize their goals and aspirations. He exemplified the best of Y servant leadership. For all who knew him, he will be remembered for making the Y a better organization.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Don's family during their time of grief.
Source: YMCA International