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A Voice in the Wilderness

For as long as we have known him, Bayside activist Mandingo Tshaka has been a crusader driven by a conscience that will not let him rest, even when it appears no one is listening.

Tshaka was born and raised in the Clear Springs part of Bayside and lives in a home that has belonged to his family for generations. More often than not, his battles have focused on local issues, such as the need for a greater police presence in Bayside’s lower-income areas. He has fought for the rights of the area’s Matinecock Indians, who called Bayside home before English settlers arrived. He pressed the city to honor African Americans and others buried in Martins Field. The field had been made into a playground without a marker honoring the people buried there.

His latest battle was fought in the nation’s capital, where he called upon Congress to recognize that the U.S. Capitol was built by slave labor. Last year, responding to Tshaka’s appeal, U.S. Reps. Gary Ackerman and Charles Rangel introduced a resolution to place a marker in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall that will explain that the Capitol was built with slave labor. The House approved the measure 399-1. The congressmen also sponsored a proposal that would place a statue honoring “The Unknown Slave” in the hall.

Tshaka attended the opening of Emancipation Hall last September and was upset no mention was made that the Capitol was built by slaves. “They must have heard my voice in the wilderness,” he said. “If this country is ever going to heal, these things have to be taught in history books and school. It’s imperative.”

We hope Congress will authorize the creation of a statue representing the unknown slave. As Ackerman noted, “The creation of this statue would be the least we could do to pay tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of the slaves who helped build the capital of the free world.”

We are proud Tshaka calls Bayside home and we congratulate him on his latest accomplishment. He has become a voice for those whose voices have not been heard, like the impoverished blacks buried in Martins Field and the slaves who built one of the most famous buildings in the world.

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