Longtime Bayside activist Tshaka publishes memoir

Bayside activist Mandingo Tshaka recently collaborated on his own biography.
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Many people who have spent time living in Bayside know about the many contributions longtime activist Mandingo Tshaka has made to the area, but those who do not can now read about them in his new book.

The retired community advocate recently published a memoir detailing his life from the beginning, taking readers on a journey through his never-ending quest to better the neighborhood he grew up in and still calls home today.

Written by a friend, Merle English, who works as a news reporter, the nearly 300-page book tells of the 83-year-old’s humble beginnings at his grandmother’s Bayside home, his rise to musical fame as a former singer for the doo-wop group The Ink Spots and his return to Queens, where he unexpectedly became a driving force for many community projects.

“There’s a lot that was done by me,” Tshaka said. “I’ve got so many citations, plaques, this, that — it’s really amazing.”

Tshaka said he and English began working on the memoir about two years ago, when a conversation between the two friends led to her suggestion that he should turn his stories into a book about his life. She came and took notes and spent the next year turning them into a memoir titled “Mandingo Osceola Tshaka: Fearless Fighter for Justice.”

“I saw it as an undertaking to put in place this record of what Mandingo has done,” English said. “It deserves a place in history because of his various accomplishments and I took this on as a means of bringing that about.”

The work includes photographs from throughout his life as well as copies of letters he wrote to elected officials, and even some he received in return.

“It’s my life,” Tshaka said. “What I’ve done, who I’ve become, my accomplish­ments.”

In the many years Tshaka has spent in Bayside, he served for 17 years on Community Board 11 and has helped change many aspects of the neighborhood for the better. He fought to rid the streets of drug dealers, establish a playground behind MS 158 on Oceania Street and lift the area surrounding his home on Bell Boulevard, south of Northern Boulevard, out of the poverty designation in which the government had placed it.

The book also describes the details of how Tshaka accomplished what is perhaps his biggest triumph — getting the federal government to admit that slave labor was used to build the White House, a fact he said had been hidden in American history until a few years ago.

“He’s Bayside’s one of a kind, as people call him, and that’s why I thought he deserved a little place on the shelf,” English said. “As an African-American, I think it’s important people recognize that he is one of the people who took a stand.”

Tshaka said the book also includes many personal stories from his childhood and his travels as a singer, and the honesty displayed in the writing does not bother him.

“I threw some punches, I’ve got no shame,” he said. “All young people stepped in caca at one point, and I did, too.”

Tshaka’s memoir was finished in 2013 and he recently began printing the book through an online self-publishing company called Xlibris. The book is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble and through, he said.

“I’m honored,” Tshaka said after his book was printed. “So much has happened in my life and I’m glad that it’s out.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at

Posted 12:00 am, July 14, 2014
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Reader feedback

anon from queens says:
Much respect to Mandingo. This man really cared about his community. I have nothing but much respect for this man.
July 14, 2014, 4:45 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
Impressive. Much better than any of the so-called local leaders of Jamaica who have done jack about anything.
July 14, 2014, 6:36 pm
Joyce shepard from Bayside says:
Mandingo had a struggle all his life as an African American in a primarily white community. He never gave up and showed them. He gained respect from the community and elected officials. He was courageous to take on issues that no other person would. He is a stubborn man. That is a good trait. When he believes in something, he never let's go. Bravo to him. He deserves any accolades he gets. I am buying his book tomorrow.
July 16, 2014, 11:34 pm
Henry Euler from Bayside says:
It should also be mentioned that Mr. Tshaka is the Co-Chair of the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy. He discovered that this cemetery was the resting place of approximately 1000 native American and African American people who passed in the 19th Century. The City desecrated the site in the 1930s to build a playground and wading pool. Graves were dug up, bones were left out in the open and headstones were destroyed. In recent years, the Conservancy has been working to refurbish the burial ground and to honor and respect the dead that lie there. Four headstones need to be replaced by the City and a large stone needs to be erected to honor the memory of all of the departed souls who lie there.
Thank you, Mandingo, for all of your hard work in addressing this shameful treatment of a burial ground perpetrated by the City of New York. A cemetery should be a hallowed place.
July 24, 2014, 12:15 pm
Jaimee Smith from Flushing, NY says:
He's a wonderful man with a beautiful spirit. I can sit down with him and listen to all of his stories and all of his history all day. He is a very intelligent man who is is also very knowledgeable. He has experienced so much throughout his life. I love, love, love, him! Congratulations Uncle Mandingo!
May 19, 2016, 9:21 pm

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