Rev Charles F Boyer, Executive Director of Salvation and Social Justice and Pastor of Greater Mount Zion A.M.E. Church,Offers Statement on the Passing of Senator Ron L. Rice
March 15, 2023 --- Today, we join the people of this state in mourning the passing of Senator Ronald L. Rice. Senator Rice was this state’s longest serving Black lawmaker, a role that he executed with integrity, grit, and an unyielding commitment to the advancement of Black people in this state. Yes, he was a senator for the people of New Jersey, but make no mistake about it... he was Black people’s champion. He stood firm and unapologetically for the rights of Black people when it was not necessarily in vogue. When the “powers that be” seemed hell bent on furthering policies that continue to feed the machine on the backs of Black and marginalized communities, Senator Rice reminded us to never underestimate the capacity of true people power.
In the days and weeks to follow, we will certainly hear many accounts of the late Senator. Remembrances from friends, colleagues, mentees, maybe even rivals. Many will be affectionate testaments to the giant of the man that he was, his passion for justice and his bold leadership. Others will recall the sting of his reproach and sharp insistence that he was neither motivated by a desire for friends nor money. What drove Senator Rice was his commitment to justice and equity for all people in this state, but especially Black people. That commitment was Senator Rice’s north star, and it is what made him such an effective and formidable lawmaker.
There is no way to quantify the contributions Senator Rice has made to this state over the last 35 years. He was the leading legislative voice on issues of policing, decriminalization of marijuana and expungement, as well as housing. He had an acute understanding of the ills that plagued our communities, their systemic roots, and a vision for charting a path forward.
In 2018, the legislature passed Senate Bill 677 sponsored by Senator Rice which required that the Office of Legislative Services prepare racial impact statements for policy changes that affect pretrial detention, sentencing and parole. In keeping with the legacy of the late Senator and his commitment to confronting those systems that precipitate and perpetuate racial disparities in virtually every sector of our society, we are calling for the establishment of the Ronald Rice Institute for Racial Impact. The Ronald Rice Institute for Racial Impact would be a separate agency secured with the personnel and professional expertise required to ascertain and analyze statistical information that is critical to understanding the effects of legislation on certain socioeconomic and racial demographics as required by law. It is our sincere hope that through this Institute we will continue the work that Senator Rice so selflessly dedicated his life to.
Today we mourn all that he was and all that we lost, but we also stand in gratitude for all that he did and all that he gave. We are grateful not only for his service but for the example that he set. Today we honor the life and work of a great man.
We offer our deepest condolences to the members of the NJ State Legislature, Legislative Black Caucus, and those who knew him best and loved him the longest.