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Tshaka recognized as tireless community advocate

Congratulations to lifelong family friend Mandingo Tshaka on his recent honor of receiving the Sanford and Hines Families’ Recognition Award for Study and Research in the African Experience in New York State, the Americas and the Diaspora.

I had the honor of accompanying Tshaka, members of his family and friends to Albany, where he was presented with his award at a meeting of the state Board of Regents June 21. Former Vice Chancellor Dr. Adelaide Sanford presented Tshaka with his award.

In her presentation speech, Sanford spoke about the importance of telling the truth about historical events, even when the truth reveals injustice and discriminatory actions by the powers that be. Tshaka has spoken out all his life against prejudice and injustice. In particular, he was cited by Sanford for two special projects that he has participated in and continues to advocate for regarding African-American history and experience.

For many years, Tshaka has worked to restore, maintain and gain respect for the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground, formerly known as Martin’s Field. This 19th-century cemetery, across the street from Flushing Cemetery, contains the remains of as many as 1,000 souls, most of whom were African American and native American. This resting place was desecrated by the city in the 1930s to construct a park and wading pool. Graves were disturbed and headstones paid for by families of the interred were removed and destroyed.

Through Tshaka’s efforts, the site was restored and renamed, and he and the conservancy who advocate for the cemetery are currently working to make sure proper memorials are placed at the site, including replacement of the headstones destroyed by the city. Borough President Helen Marshall has pledged funds to accomplish this goal and the conservancy is in negotiations with her office, the city Parks Department and the city Design Commission to complete this project.

The second project cited by Sanford was Tshaka’s efforts to make sure that those who built the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., are properly recognized and honored. Enslaved African Americans did the construction of this icon of our country. At that time, there was no heavy machinery or power tools to do this difficult work. These people used muscle power to do the heavy lifting of the stones and slabs that make up this building. They were not recognized as citizens because they were enslaved, and therefore were not treated with the respect they deserved as human beings.

Tshaka did research on this matter and brought this information to the attention of U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), who in turn has made sure that this information is part of our American history. Tshaka was honored by Congress for bringing these revelations to everyone’s attention.

Over the years, Tshaka has served his community with distinction. He has served on Community Board 11 and is an advocate for his area. And he continues to work and advocate for what is right and just.

Henry Euler

Bayside

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