Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Haley Reading (Group A2) Nafissa Thompson-Spires's "Heads of the Colored People"

[Haley Reading groups Fall 2021]

By Lakenzie Walls and Howard Rambsy II

In Nafissa Thompson-Spires's story “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology," we are introduced to four characters whose individual stories intersect on a day that two of them are shot by police. The narrator takes the time to give us brief, in-depth takes on the movements, choices, and thoughts of four characters.

One of the characters, a young Black man named Riley wears colored contacts and bleached hair, and, as we're informed by the narrator, "this wasn’t any kind of self-hatred thing” (1). Another Black man, referred to as Brother Man, "was burly but not violent and rather liked to regard himself as an intellectual in a misleading package" (4). 

Then, there is a visual artist Kevan, who is hundreds of miles away from the main action in the story, but would later draw images of Black men, like Riley and Brother Man, killed by police (8). Another is Paris Larkin, who longs for a superpower to "make herself visible" (10). Like her boyfriend Riley, she is devoted to cosplay. 

What does this "black network narrative" lead you to consider about Thompson-Spires as a storyteller? That is to say, what's one thought you had about the creativity, style of writing, organizational approach, or artistic capabilities of a writer who composes a story that connects a variety of African American characters?

36 comments:

Damien W said...

Black network narrative shows the creativity between the Thompson spires. The story of a creative, style of writing, organizational approach, or artistic capabilities of a writer who composes a story that connects a variety of African American characters is interesting. Also their way of making a couple of paragraphs about African Americans then connecting it to today's society is astonishing.

Britney Wallace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


When reading this story it led me to think that Thompson-Spires is a creative writer and likes to think outside of the box when creating her stories. When she went to describe Riley she described him as "blue contact and bleached blond hair which he used gel and a blow dryer". She made Riley almost sound like he wasn't in touch with himself being black but he very much was. In the story it said that he was very much in touch with his black heritage he read things like The Bluest Eye and Invisible Man.

-Audriahna M

Britney Wallace said...

Nafissa Thomspson-Spires story was an interesting narrative on four unique black characters. From her writing I can presume she does not like the typical stereotypes casted onto black men and women. I see this through her characterization of Riley, “Riley wore blue contact lenses and bleached his hair...He was not self-hating; he was even listening to Drake... make it Fetty Wap if his appreciation for trap music changes something for you” (Thompson-Spires 1). The author is showing how Riley doesn't fit the “typical” description of a black man. She is also drawing the question of what is a typical black man? There are other characters like Kevan, and Brother Man that are completely different from Riley, yet they all play a significant role in each other’s lives. Through her characters people are able to see a handful of black people that act beyond the stereotypes. I thought the author did a wonderful job in portraying these characters with her relatable writing style. I think her writing is one many black people can feel connected to, because of all the typical stereotypes stated throughout the piece.
- Britney W

Caleb W. said...

The narrative "black network narrative" made my respect for Thompson-Spires as a writer in general grow. The storytelling is so creative, it makes you really think about what is going on and put two and two together. In this story despite all of the descriptions nothing is really what it seems. Even though he bleached his hair and wears blue contacts he doesn't hate himself it is just what he likes, even though he looks like he dates Asian and white women he in fact loves black women. What I took from it is you have to love yourself and stop judging others. The author did a great job with this one.

Anonymous said...

I think that this black network narrative shows mostly how creative Thompson-Spires is. Making an attempt to just alone write about multiple people's stories and how they connect can be a difficult task itself, but Thompson-Spires managed to do that but even add more into the story that helped readers be able to understand more about the people who were involved, such as talking about how black heritage can be seen as when mentioning Riley with his blue contacts and blonde hair, mentioning Brother Mans intentions when placing his hand on Riley, including ideas Kevan had while in the SweetArt Bake Shop, or even talking about Paris and who she is, including how she was feeling after learning about Rylie's death.

Madisen W.

Nyah Marcano said...

Nafissa Thompson-Spires took a very creative approach to tell the story of the tragic events that happened to four creative characters. She writes with so much awareness, to the point that she dismisses any possible thoughts the reader might be having as they read, in the reading itself. She paints a very specific and detailed picture for the reader. Each characters thoughts are made aware for the reader, drawing very clear lines to where things went wrong. Her writing style takes the reader on a journey almost as if it was a movie.

-Nyah Marcano

Unknown said...

Reading this story from this chapter showed me that Thompson-Spires had a very open vision to something greater then any of us could ever imagine. He shows that she is a very intelligent person and is very creative, in this chapter and has a answer for everything that the reader may have been thinking and that's why this book is so interesting because the more you read on you can see how much knowledge she has and how she talks about the things that are real today. This chapter also shows that many people feel this way about situations like the ones she explain in the book today and she connects with us on a personal level and when you can do that you know that a good author wrote this book or chapter of the book.

sierrea mcniff said...

Thompson-Spires's artistic capabilities are rare. Many authors stereotyped their black characters but Thompson-Spire's work is different. Kevan is first explained as another single, black father on child support, but he is so much more than that. He has dreams "to create a full exhibit of heads of colored people" (8). Similarly, Brother Man is more than just a big, scary black man. He, too, has a dream like Kevan; he wants to sell comics from his series, Brother's Spawn. He also has strong emotions. Her story shows that there isn't one way to be black, but that everyone sees us the same- a thug.

Valarie M said...

Nafissa Thompson-Spires is a very honest and direct writer. I feel as if writers nowadays tend to avoid the truth because they don't want to get bashed for it. Nafissa shows the true meaning behind these characters by comparing them to actual real African Americans that go through this on a daily basis. Also, a thought that I had was when she was writing the story I wondered how did she feel when writing because when people tell real stories at times people break down and don't want to share their thoughts about what's going on. - Valarie M.

Xavier Stacker said...

Reading Nafissa Thompson-Spires' work was at the very least intriguing. The uniqueness in the way of exploring four well-delvoped characters is so indescribable. The story about the person changing the way they look stood out to me the most because it tells us to be our own unique selves and break stereotypes about us.

Chris Rhodes said...

This “black network narrative” leads me to consider that Thompson-Spires is a talented, powerful, and educated storyteller. One thought I had about the organizational approach of a writer who composed a story that connects a variety of African American characters is how he explained stereotypes and the effects they have on black people particularly with the police.

Anonymous said...

The black network narrative shows me more in depth of what the characters are like and it can show their similarities and differences when the author puts it into organization of certain characters. It also shows me that they are going to connect at some point in the story and how they come apart. One thought when it comes to the author's organizational approach fits well in a way because it shows how each character is, but the names can be confusing at times since he's shown multiple characters at once.

Jordan W. said...

I believe that the black network narrative made me consider that the characters will meet in some kind of way, the author just wanted to bring up the organizational approach so the audience can understand each set of character. It is a way to show how the character personalities, similarities, and differences for the characters. One thought I had about the organization approach is that I believe that it is a good idea when it comes to having multiple characters, but it would be easier to have connected them having their own set of background as well to understand each character better because it can get confusing with all the names and connecting Riley with Paris was confusing for me for a moment.

Shaniyah Robinson said...

The Black Network Narrative shows how the characters in this story are similar and also shows their differences. I am assuming that they will connect at some point in the story because it starts to be kind of confusing trying to piece together everyone and their individual backgrounds. However, the author does do a great job at painting a specific vision for the story and she pays attention to detail. What I took from the story is to have self-love because without that you can't have a true love for anything or anyone else. -Shaniyah R

Kailiah W. said...

The black network narrative was creative and refreshing. The author describes the lives and struggles that the black community faces everyday. I found it creative and refreshing that the author showcased every African American person so differently, yet they all face the same issues in society.

Kailiah W. said...

The black network narrative was creative and refreshing. The author describes the lives and struggles that the black community faces everyday. I found it creative and refreshing that the author showcased every African American person so differently, yet they all face the same issues in society.

Josiah Olden said...

I really enjoyed how the author connects so many different characters. She really emphasizes the idea that not all black people act the same way. We may share common roots, but we have differences that make us unique. I think Thompson hits the nail on the head when discussing Riley's interests. She mentions how he dyed his hair blonde and wore colored contacts to resemble a character he admired. The way that Thompson wrote his description makes the reader assume that he is not in touch with his heritage. Yet, Thompson immediately negates that idea when she says that he actually respects and loves his heritage. I really loved how she organized the Chapter. She gives each character their own section within the chapter, but she connects each section so that it is all a part of a bigger story.
-Josiah O

Josiah Olden said...

I really enjoyed how the author tries to emphasize the many differences among black people and that they are not the stereotypes given to them. The characters in this story execute Thompson's idea of diversity among the underrepresented. In fact, the very title of the book, "Heads of the Color People", perfectly suits the ideas of this chapter. For so long, black people were viewed as one type of person. However, Thompson tries to change this stigma by incorporating black people who cosplay, pursue education, and loves art. I love how she connects the character's stories to each other because it emphasizes a larger idea: Everybody is unique, no matter your race.
-Josiah Olden

Sandy Stokes said...

The author made this story very intresting and unqiue. I love how they showed how just because Riley gave himself qualities of white person doesn't mean he hated himself of wanted to be seem as a white person.The way the decribed all the different characters kind of broke the sterotype that comes with being black.

Unknown said...

The Black Network Narrative that the author showed was very creative. I think it helped us get a true understanding of the characters and how they were portrayed throughout the story. I really enjoyed how he incorporated his deep feelings into the story.

-Makiah Lewis

Unknown said...

The Black Network Narrative that the author showed was very creative. I think it helped us get a true understanding of the characters and how they were portrayed throughout the story. I really enjoyed how he incorporated his deep feelings into the story.

-Makiah Lewis

Kevyere Mack said...



This "black network narrative" lead me to consider how Thompson-Spires as a storyteller came up with ideal styles to make readers think she was talking about caucasian kids, but in reality it was African American cultures put into a perspective of being "not normal". Thompson-Spires really brung out the stereotypical people and showed that, one who wears "different attire", hates themselves. Despite how she feels when she tells the character's background, she then describes their setting and what most African Americans face on a daily bases because the color of their skin.
-Kevyere Mack

Anonymous said...

This "black network narrative" lead me to consider how Thompson-Spires as a storyteller came up with ideal styles to make readers think she was talking about caucasian kids, but in reality it was African American cultures put into a perspective of being "not normal". Thompson-Spires really brung out the stereotypical people and showed that, one who wears "different attire", hates themselves. Despite how she feels when she tells the character's background, she then describes their setting and what most African Americans face on a daily bases because the color of their skin.
-Kevyere Mack

La’ Raye said...

While reading this it made me realize how creative and unique the "black network narrative" to Thompson-Sires is. The story's style is just so different and very enlightening to me. I loved how detailed and how much she explained each character. Her being so detailed made me imagine and help me really picture each of the characters. She also explains how she doesn't like stereotyping. A male in the book bleached his hair blonde and wears blue contacts. Just because he does these things doesn't mean he wants to be white, it's just what he likes. He is just representing himself, which if that's what makes him happy that's all that matters. It doesn't matter the color of his skin.
-La'Raye Littlepage

Jania M. said...

The black network narrative led me to consider about Thompson- Spires as unique and creative storyteller. Whereas she dislikes labeling black men and women. A thought about the organizational approach of a writer who composes a story that connects a variety of African American characters is that the author describes each character differently, but they all face the same societal issues. Jania M

Curtis scott said...

while reading heads of the colored people Thompson expires I love how in this story its characters explain themselves in the story to make the book really good. riley was explain in the story that he wore blue contact lenses and bleached his hair which he worked with gel and a blow dryer and a flatiron some mornings into sonic the hedgehog spikes so stiff you could prick your finger on them and sometimes into a wispy side bob with long bangs and he was black. in the book riley loved spending time with his uncle.

Unknown said...

The black network narrative that Thompson-Spires creates for her readers helps her audience realize that there isn’t a specific narrative that all black people have in society. So, with that being said, this shows that Thompson-Spires is a creative storyteller that tries to help her audience understand various viewpoints to consider when perceiving others in our current society.

Ayanna Townsend

Ayanna Townsend said...

The black network narrative that Thompson-Spires creates for her readers helps her audience realize that there isn’t a specific narrative that all black people have in society. So, with that being said, this shows that Thompson-Spires is a creative storyteller that tries to help her audience understand various viewpoints to consider when perceiving others in our current society.

Maurice King said...

The Black Network Narrative had shown me that the author is excellent when utilizing figurative language in the reading.The way she had described Riley is an amazing way to tell how he was not well connected to his African American roots.

Paul Olubodun said...

Paul Olubodun

The thought I had when reading the chapter was that the author is really good at tying everything back together. In the beginning, the author has an interesting name for the chapter, then throughout gives us a little insight of each character, then, in the end, ties everything all together. The creativity, writing style, and organization keep the reader interested by getting the reader to build a connection with each character and making the reader guess what is going to happen next, but in the end, giving the reader something to think about.

Jarrod Rhodes said...

Thompson-Spires did a magnificent job of describing what our characters look like, their interests, and their behavior. He helped readers develop an image and thought process of our characters. Thomas-Spires also clarified our thoughts towards any characters that he introduces. Brother Man (Richard Simmons) aggressively approached Riley when he was ignored. The author clarified that normally Richard would not act in this way, but today, he felt disrespected by someone of his own race. If Thomas-Spires did not explain Richard's aggression, the readers would probably assume him to be the aggressive type. The author's organization of the characters' different scenarios was confusing at first, but it all made sense when they all show relation with one another. Paris Larkin and Riley had a lover's relationship, Riley and Richard were both unarmed black men that were killed by a police, and Kevan Peterson and Paris Larkin both are artist who expressed their sorrow for the death of Riley and Richard. Thomas-Spires's black networking shows talent for creativity and organization.
Jarrod Rhodes

Jason Newman said...

The "black network narrative by Thompson-Sires is creative and very descriptive. This creativity is not seen in many stories I read and caused me to be invested in this story. The vivid descriptiveness caused me to picture every detail of the character in my head. He used this descriptiveness to show how black people can have many different personalities and act in different ways. When the author described Riley, he explained how even though Riley has straight blonde hair and colored contacts, doesn't mean he wants to be white or is gay...he just wants to express himself.
-Jason Newman

Amarie McCleary said...

I think the "black network narrative" leads me to consider that all black people are different and unique in their own way(s) basically changing how society or white people try to make us look. While reading this section I believe Thompson-Spires did an amazing job as a storyteller she presented the description and everything else as a piece of art. The way she connected each fact to a specific person at the right time as well as captivating my attention to continue reading as well as painting the perfect picture for me to visualize as I continued to read. She described everything I wanted to know as she unpacked every emotion of each person perfectly!

Kehajana Tallie said...

I think Thompson-Spires did an amazing job as a storyteller. I love how she showed that black people are not the same and that she does not use the average stereotypical black person. The black people in this story were unique and different. Black people are so much more than people make us out to be and I feel like she did an amazing job explaining this through the story.

Sarai WB said...

Thompson Spires as a storyteller likes to think about realistic problems with weird unordinary characters. Spires is very descriptive and gets to the point of things. One thought i had while reading is even though these are African American characters some people are able to relate to them or the storyline especially the situation between Riley and Brother Man (Richard Simmons).
-Sarai WB