By Journalist Ms. Jones
NEWBURGH – “Father, Holy grail, sing praises for the Holy Trinity… Study up, black boy, and learn the journey of human history… Ghana, Songhai, and kingdoms of Mali… Wrap this knowledge around your consciousness and dig the skin you’re in.” Sounds like a poem by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, or Saul Williams. It’s actually an excerpt from a poem called “My Culture” from Councilman Torrance Harvey’s new book titled “Ya Sankofa!”
“Sankofa is a West African term that comes from the Ashanti tribe and it basically means to go back and get your success, go back and get what it is that’s yours, go back and get the riches from your heritage and your ancestors,” said Harvey.
The title was inspired by the movie that came out years ago called “Sankofa” and the discovery during Harvey’s family genealogy research which showed that his ancestral roots are from the West African kingdom of Ghana. The imagery of his book cover pays homage to the African culture. The book is black with the African continent trimmed in gold with a woman’s facial impression inside the continent symbolizing the Motherland. The black cover also represents the black soil of the African continent and the gold trimming is a sign of the gold trades of West Africa.
Harvey has a lot of “heaters” in “Ya Sankofa!”
“The MLK Monument poem is called ‘Inspiration”… it is about being inspired by the erection of the MLK Monument on the National Mall… There’s another poem that I wrote called ‘Indigo’… that speaks about the indigo natural resource that comes out of Haiti… There are a lot of personifications and metaphors in that poem that speak to how and why Haiti is in the position that it’s in, being what we would call a third world country and it’s because of European Colonialism that stripped Haiti of its natural resources… There’s another one called ‘I am Man’ which deals with… police brutality against African American young men,” said Harvey.
Harvey’s journey to write the book of poetry began over two decades ago.
“I wrote fifty poems over twenty years… I was inspired to write at different moments in time… Two years ago, I decided I was gonna take those poems out of my scrapbook, type them up, and send them to the Library of Congress… Two publishers noticed them and wrote me… and a year and a half later, here we are.”
Twenty-two poems were chosen for “Ya Sankofa!” Harvey is currently working on a second book of poetry. He is also writing a one-act stage play and will write a screenplay in the next five years.
“They’re all connected and have… a common theme… of reflecting back and being in touch with your ancestral roots and understanding who you are… and … understanding the riches from which you come from,” said Harvey.
Harvey has been a councilman in the city of Newburgh for two years.
“The city council experience has helped me understand… the Black community better. It helped me understand how and why legacy is important… Being on the city council, you’re legislating laws that help so many people’s day-to-day lives with government resolutions,” said Harvey.
Harvey is also a teacher at Newburgh Free Academy Excelsior Academy. He has been teaching history for nineteen years.
“That played a role because there are a lot of historical references in the poems,” said Harvey.
Ya Sankofa! is available now digitally and in major bookstores in March. Autographed copies of Ya Sankofa! are also available at www.torranceharvey.com.