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CON-DI-FI-CATION: Transnationalism, Diaspora and the Limits of Domestic Racial or Feminist Discourses

Carole Boyce Davies


Titled Equal Opportunity, and tellingly published in her last major collection of poetry, Our Dead Behind Us, is a poem which anticipated Condoleezza Rice, the current United States Secretary of State and the theme of this paper. On the cover of this particular edition of Lordes book, stand three wizened old African women superimposed over another photograph of a vibrant demonstration of South African activists protesting perhaps the racial injustices of apartheid, fists clenched in the black power sign. A whole other though not unrelated text unfolds in these images. The Equal Opportunity poem describes a black woman who has made it into the highest echelons of the U.S. military complex and in her role has to assist in the execution of the worst of U.S. policies, in this case the invasion of Grenada. The images the poet selects include the desecration of the islands nutmeg trees, that is, the islands spice but also its national resource, a telling symbol of U.S. governments normal functioning. Its first few verses go as follows:

The American deputy assistant secretary of defense
for Equal Opportunity
and safety
is a home girl
Blindness slashes our tapestry to shreds
The moss green military tailoring sets off her color
she says when I stand up to speak in uniform
you can believe everyone takes notice!
Superimposed skull-like across her trim square shoulders
dioxin smear
the stench of napalm upon growing cabbage
the chug and thud of Corsairs in the foreground
advance like a blush across her cheeks
up the unpaved road outside Grenville, Grenada

An M-16 bayonet gleams
slashing away the wooden latch
of a one-room slat house in Soubise
mopping up weapons search pockets of resistance
Imelda young Black in a tattered headcloth
standing to one side on her left foot
takes notice
one wrist behind her hip the other
palm-up beneath her chin watching
armed men in moss-green jumpsuits turn out her shack
watching mashed up nutmeg trees
the trampled cocoa pods
graceless broken stalks of almost ripe banana
her sister has been missing now ten days . . .

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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