‘Bayside’s One of a Kind’: Civic leader and activist Mandingo Osceola Tshaka dies at 91

Mandingo Osceola Tshaka
Mandingo Osceola Tshaka (QNS/File)

Former Queens Community Board 11 member and Bayside civic leader Mandingo Osceola Tshaka passed away May 10, just two days before his 91st birthday, at Hillside Manor Nursing Home in Jamaica.

In addition to serving for 17 years on the community board, Tshaka served as president of his civic association, Bayside Clear Spring, as well as co-chair of the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy.

During his time on the board, Tshaka fought to rid the streets of drug dealers; establish a playground behind M.S. 158 on Oceania Street; and lift the area surrounding his Bell Boulevard home south of Northern Boulevard out of the poverty designation in which the government had placed it.

In 2014, with assistance from friend Merle English, Tshaka published a memoir detailing his life. Titled “Mandingo Osceola Tshaka: Fearless,” the nearly 300-page memoir detailed his early life being raised by his grandmother in Bayside, his rise to musical fame as a singer for the doo-wop group The Ink Spots and his return to Queens, where he became a driving force for many community projects.

Throughout his lengthy career serving the community, one of his biggest accomplishments was getting the federal government to admit that slave labor was used to build the White House. According to him, this fact had been hidden in American history for a long time.

During his time chairing Olde Town of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy, Tshaka dedicated many years to get the 19th-century cemetery the dignity and respect he felt it deserved. Up to 1,000 people have been buried there.

Queens Memory, the digital archives program at Queens Public Library, remembered Tshaka’s extensive activism for work and with the burial ground.

Tshaka’s Bayside home on 46th Avenue has belonged to his family for over a century. He referred to himself as “Bayside’s One of a Kind.”