We’re kicking off our Summer Spotlight series with one of our English Enrichment camps, Social Justice: A Reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which was developed and is taught by our all-star English Subject Expert Teacher Mr. Sharp. Read his full bio here.

In Social Justice: A Reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates, students entering grades 8–12 will explore social justice in America as they study social changes from the 1960’s and up through present day. This course will examine various essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the comic book superhero Black Panther. Along with the historical and literary focus, instruction will aim to improve students’ grammar, writing, critical reading, and note-taking skills. This course is designed to help students improve their critical thinking and writing skills to prepare for the SAT, AP exams, and college-level coursework. 

This week-long, half-day course will run July 16–20 and July 23–27. Students may take both weeks, but are not required to.

We spoke with Mr. Sharp to get a sneak peek into what students can expect:


Why did you decide to teach Social Justice: A Reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates this summer?

With all the social movements filling the news in the past few years, the overwhelming voice that continues to seek clarity in this confusing time has been Atlantic journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates wrote and published an open-letter to his son (Between the World and Me) a couple of years ago that won a Pulitzer Prize, and it became the survival guide for young men of color in a 21st century America. Coates’ writing has continued to question authority, challenge the status quo, and provide an outlet for thinkers to grabble with challenging issues. The hope for this course is that students can struggle finding solutions to difficult problems through activism while strengthening their writing and reading skills, and gaining a better understanding of the effectiveness of rhetoric.

Social Justice Sharp Class web.jpg

Why should a student sign up for this course?

The course is primarily geared to help students become better readers, writers, and critical thinkers, but it is also meant to spark some interesting conversations. Though we will be reading from a variety of texts (non-fiction, comic book, essays, etc.), the common thread of this course will focus on how activism can change our lives and our collective future. Students will be expected to write about their solutions to the problems that plague America today.

What are some examples of activities or lessons you have planned?

Students will read different articles that Ta-Nehisi Coates has written over the last 10 years (published in We Were Eight Years in Power) and discuss their meaning, the rhetorical strategies he employs, and extract broader themes that will impact our current students. I also want students to seek opportunities where their own writing and actions can make a difference in their communities and neighborhoods. We will seek to find solutions to problems that they have identified in their own communities.

Students will create a project of their choice (comic book/graphic novel, essay, pamphlet, etc.) that addresses a self-determined social issue that faces young people today (equal rights, climate change, education issues, etc.).

Social Justice Books.jpg

Are students required to take both weeks of camp?

Though it will be helpful and most beneficial to attend both weeks, each week will provide its own separate opportunities to read challenging essays and articles from Ta-Nehisi Coates. The analysis of these writings will be the most valuable aspect of the camp.

What is on the reading list for the class?

There are two required texts: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy and Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet. Two other books are suggested texts: Between the World and Me and A Beautiful Struggle. All by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I will pull ideas and material from all four books.

Dates: July 16–20 and/or July 23–27

Times: Half Day Afternoon Camp: 1 PM–4 PM

Fee: $375

Thanks, Mr. Sharp! We're excited for this summer course. Registration is now open and early bird registration rates are available until March 15! Register now! 

BASIS Independent Summer offers a variety of academics and recreational programs for kids age 4 through grade 12. Camps run July 16August 10. To learn more about BASIS Independent Summer, visit our website.