By Sophia Chang
Tshaka was represented at the Sixth Annual Freedom Fund dinner by his friend Robbie Garrison, who accepted the Roy Wilkins Leadership Award on his behalf at the Sheraton La Guardia East Hotel in downtown Flushing. Tshaka, who also sits on Community Board 11, was unable to attend due to illness.
“He did not do it for Mandingo,” Garrison said. “He did it for the community. And to be recognized by his own people makes it more special.”
“History will know him for what he's done,” she added.
In a later interview, Tshaka said, “I'm sorry I couldn't make it. I'm looking at it here in the hospital. It's the most stunning civic award I've ever gotten. What makes it special is it's my people honoring my work, African Americans recognizing my work. I'm eternally grateful for the award.”
Ken Cohen, president of the NAACP branch, said “every year we look for an outstanding person that has stood up for not only their own rights but the rights of others.
He added, “Over the years Mandingo has done just that.”
Cohen nominated Tshaka for the award in January based on his work with the black and native American burial ground at the Martins Field playground in Flushing and with Community Board 11, citing them as examples of his activist work that exemplifies the NAACP's missions.
Mandingo is serving a second term on CB 11, which covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston and part of Auburndale.
“We are very active in all aspects, and that's how we came up with Mandingo, because he's very active in all aspects,” Cohen said.
The Roy Wilkins award is named for the man who was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, according to the organization's Web site. Wilkins was executive director of the NAACP from 1955 to 1977 and began several important programs, including one focusing on the specific needs of black war veterans. Wilkins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal after his death in 1981.
Fernando Ferrer, the president of the Drum Major Institute and one-time Democratic mayoral candidate, delivered the keynote speech at the dinner. Other honorees at the dinner included state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing); Wellington Chen, a trustee at Queensborough Community College; Bernard Sydnor, publicity chairman of the Northeast Queens branch; Assistant District Attorney Jessie Sligh; community activist Shirley Bryant; Joan Ratner, the principal of PS 154; and Quentin See-Wai, the vice president of the branch's Youth Council.
Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.