When iconic leader Nelson Mandela was jailed in South Africa, many believe leaders there were trying to silence him and dismiss his efforts to repeal apartheid. The plan backfired as dozens of countries began boycotting South Africa—an initiative that eventually led to the freedom of the outspoken activist and near financial collapse of the country. Mandela passed away last week. He was 95.

During the 1980s and in subsequent years, New Jersey was one of the key states in the country to actively and vocally oppose apartheid in South Africa. At the time, Republican Gov. Tom Kean went against orders from the Reagan administration to oppose sanctions and anti-apartheid efforts. Kean immediately divested New Jersey holdings in firms that were doing business in South Africa. Dozens of other states followed suit, which led to an economic crisis in the country and precipitated the release of Mandela and, eventually, his historic presidency.

On Sunday in Newark, dozens of Newarkers paid homage to Mandela at a peaceful rally on Sunday in the Brick City. The event was sponsored by the vocal and occasionally rowdy grassroots community group the People’s Organization for Progress.