New Jersey State House in Trenton, New Jersey. Photo by Marion Touvel

Black and Latino leaders in New Jersey call on the Legislature to select a person of color as the next Senate President. New Jersey is almost half people of color, and it is time for the leadership of the New Jersey Legislature to reflect the makeup of our population. The transition of Senate President Sweeney is an opportunity to acknowledge the diversity of our state and select a leader who represents the interests of the majority of New Jersey’s residents.

“As New Jersey and the nation continue to grapple with race, we must be vigilant in our efforts to hold leaders accountable,” said Rev. Eric Dobson, Deputy Director of Fair Share Housing Center. “Almost half of New Jersey’s residents are people of color. Our legislative leadership must reflect those demographics. We have a white, male Governor and a white, male Assembly Speaker. We must not allow another white male to ascend to Senate President.”

“The time is now,” said Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer, Founding Director of Salvation and Social Justice. “Black people and people of color have waited long enough to have legislative leadership reflect the racial demographics of our state. New Jersey leads the nation in racial disparities across almost all indicators of well-being. We need leaders that truly understand what that means for our communities and are committed to policy solutions that address it.”

“We call on our legislators to select a person of color for the Senate President position,” said Christian Estevez, President of the Latino Action Network. “As New Jersey’s Latino population continues to grow, legislative leadership must also change to reflect the current makeup of our state. We must hold our leaders accountable in making decisions that advance the interests of all New Jerseyans, not just the white residents.”

“While unexpected, the outcome of Tuesday’s election presents an opportunity for people of color in New Jersey,” said Richard Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. “There is lots of work to do to dismantle structural racism and address discrimination in our state, and that work must be led by people of color. Legislators must be honest about the racial makeup of our state and must select a leader that represents the voices and interests of our people.”

“Senate President Sweeney always worked hard to include communities of color in his legislative deliberations, and I am saddened by his apparent defeat,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, Director of the Latino Coalition. “Moving forward, it is time to name a person of color as Senate President. It is time for Senate leadership to reflect the population of the state. This is an opportunity to promote diversity.”

“Leadership positions in the New Jersey Legislature equal power,” said Carolyn V. Chang, Past President and Current Social Justice Committee Chair of the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey. “The interest of Black voters and voters of color have for too long been cast aside in our state. Having a person of color in the position of the Senate President presents an opportunity to advance these interests.”

“It is long past time for the leadership in our state to reflect our increasingly diverse population,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “The 2020 Census shows that New Jersey is on the verge of becoming a majority people of color state, yet for years, the three most powerful people in New Jersey, each white men, have neither reflected that racial diversity nor confronted the lived experiences of Black and other people of color, who face some of the worst racial inequities in America. In this moment, we have an opportunity to change that. We are calling on the New Jersey Senate to choose as its next leader a person of color who will both reflect New Jersey’s rich racial diversity and address the needs of its Black and other communities of color.”

Pastor Steffie Bartley, Northeastern Regional Director of the National Action Network and Senior Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Elizabeth, is urging New Jersians to make history by electing a Women of Color to serve as the Senate President.

According to Pastor Bartley “It was the Black and Brown voters who successfully delivered the statehouse for Democrats, yet two leading positions are held by white men and the third position, State Senate President is headed in the same direction. Black and Brown voters have delivered the Statehouse for Democrats, but unfortunately in return we are still seated at the back of the bus.”

Pastor Bartley is urging other clergy to speak out stating that the Assembly Speaker and Senate President are elected by their peers in the legislature and it is time for the body to be represented by someone that reflects the diversity of the state of New Jersey.

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