Haunted by echoes of Paule Marshall's Brown Girl, Brownstones and Audre Lorde's Zami, Griffith makes a pedestrian debut with her story of a Caribbean girl's coming-of-age in 1960s New York and the life she makes for herself as an activist in the years that follow. After her father is shot by two racist policemen in Brooklyn, narrator Della Morgan (a teenager at the time) finds herself more and more attentive to the politics of her day--Black Power, Garveyism, Freedom Riders, Black Panthers and student protests. At the same time, she falls in love, first with jazz musician and fellow Brooklynite Gregory and then with Sam, a Puerto Rican campus radical at Columbia University, who encourages her to study and introduces her to his underground political circle. Central to the story are the sexual tensions that bind Della, Gregory, Sam, Sam's white lover, Claudia, and their son, Ben. Yet the characters remain somewhat remote and their relationships never quite gel. Griffith leans heavily on the melodramatic devilry of the Man--illustrated by a frameup that breaks Sam's spirit by jailing him for political activities. For this reason, perhaps, Della never reflects on her own vivid snapshots of a youth spent in the Movement. The result is a frustratingly superficial debut that becomes less credible the further it reaches toward poignancy. (Dec.) FYI: Griffith is a director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.