Sally’s Middle Name co-owner Aphra Adkins has tackled food and retail, and now she’s moving on to social justice.
The H Street NE small plates restaurant will host free English for Speakers of Other Languages classes from 1:30 to 2:20 p.m. every Wednesday, beginning Sept. 2, for eight weeks. It’s open to restaurant employees who work along the H Street corridor or in the surrounding area.
Adkins will teach the class alongside Seda Nak, her partner in Akae (the home-goods store Adkins owns above Sally’s) and wife to chef Erik Bruner-Yang. Adkins says the pair has consulted with teaching professionals to finalize the syllabus. Restaurant owners like Bruner-Yang, Boundary Road‘s Brad Walker, and Ocopa‘s Carlos Delgado have also helped create the course’s content.
Though the course will emphasize speaking and listening, it will also cover some reading and writing skills. The goal is to empower workers who might not know how to ask basic questions about their rights in the workplace, air a grievance with an employer, ask for sick days, or clarify their pay structure. Adkins’ husband Sam, co-owner and executive chef at Sally’s, once had an employee who was diabetic and couldn’t explain it was a chronic illness.
“Sam was sending him home several times a week because the employee could only say ‘I’m sick,’ when all he needed was to sit down and have a cracker and some juice. There’s vocabulary specific to the workplace, like how tips work and being able to say, ‘I need a minute,'” Adkins says. “We’ve made friends with both employers and employees [on H Street] and noticed there’s really a need in the industry in general for this. It’s hard when you don’t know what someone is asking you.”
All course materials, including pens and notebooks, will be provided at no charge. Adkins will also distribute multiple copies of the reading materials so that participants can pass along the information to family or keep a copy at work.
“We hope to provide a service that is as convenient to the student as possible, allowing them to focus on learning instead of those nagging questions: Can I actually afford this? Should I leave early so that I don’t miss my bus to work?” Adkins says.
To sign up, email Adkins at email@example.com. But do it quickly—Adkins will cap the class at 20 students.
Photo by Jessica Sidman