Things to Do

Kwanzaa, an Artist Talk, and Speed Dating: Things to Do in Washington, December 28-30

Plus: Meet the new director of the NMAAHC.

Illustration by Hannah Good.

Hi folks!

We’ve got some end-of-year fun.

Try a forest bathing walk through the National Arboretum.

Here’s what you should check out this week:

Arts talk: Tune into Mosaic Theater’s Creative Conversations virtual chat series. In the upcoming “At the Border Lands: How We Make Home” talk, see film, music, and poetry performances from a panel of international theatermakers and artists grappling with the question, “How do we build a home?” Monday 12/28 at 7:30 PM; Free, learn more here.

Cuffing season: Try virtual speed dating from the new site Dating From Home. Go on a series of 3-minute video dates from your couch to meet single folks around DC. is Monday 12/28 at 8 PM; $18, buy tickets here.

Watch: Coyaba Dance Theater will perform a virtual “In Spirit of Kwanzaa” celebration hosted by Dance Place. See the joyful show of West African dance and drum to mark the holiday. Tuesday 12/29 at 6:30 PM; Free, watch it here.

Start making those plans: If you’re thinking about New Year’s Eve dinner, we’ve got you covered. Here’s where you can find special menus to toast to the end of 2020.

Get outside: Unplug and layer up for some forest bathing in the National Arboretum on New Year’s Eve. Never heard of it? The Friends of the National Arboretum describe forest bathing as “the simple practice of taking in the woods through the senses for health benefits.” A nature and forest therapy guide will lead the two-hour tour (happening rain or shine) that will conclude with some snacks. Thursday 12/31 with slots starting at 9 AM; $35, buy tickets here.

Someone new: 

Meet Kevin Young.

In our January issue, I wrote a mini-introduction to Kevin Young, the new head of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, who starts his job in a couple weeks. So who is he? Here’s a quick look at a fascinating guy:

He’s only the second NMAAHC director.
Young is replacing founder Lonnie Bunch, who was named head of the entire Smithsonian in 2019. That means Young is in the potentially difficult position of reporting to the person who previously had his job. Still, expect the 50-year-old to put his stamp on the institution. “Kevin is . . . steeped in African American culture and history,” Bunch told an interviewer when the appointment was announced. “He is someone who is passionate about making that history accessible.”

He’s a history hound.
In 2017, Young published a book about notable con artists—from P.T. Barnum to Rachel Dolezal—titled Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News. And this fall saw the release of African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, an ambitious collection that Young edited. He was hired away from the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where he oversaw 11 million rare books and artifacts, a collection more than 250 times the size of the NMAAHC’s.

He’s a character.
A natty dresser with top-notch pocket-square game, Young has built an impressive private collection of rare books and ephemera. (He’s an engaging presence throughout the 2019 bibliophile documentary The Booksellers). He’s the kind of guy who gets invited to go see the movie The Five Heartbeats with Toni Morrison and Angela Davis, an experience he later wrote about for the New Yorker. That combination of cultural fluency, quirkiness, and curiosity should make for an unusual museum administrator.

He’s a prolific poet.
Young has written more books of poetry than most people have read. His 11 volumes explore themes of family, history, and Black culture. In 2017, he became the first Black person to serve as the New Yorker’s poetry editor, a gig he still holds. Young began writing verse as a teen in Topeka, Kansas, and at Harvard he joined the Dark Room Collective, a group of Black intellectuals that included soon-to-be US poets laureate Natasha Trethewey and Tracy K. Smith. Now he’s thinking about how to bring his literary sensibility to the new job. “Poetry is about those lyric transcendent moments and so is the museum,” he recently told an interviewer. “It reminds us what is possible.”

Thanks for reading! Tell me what you’re up to at home by dropping me a line at rcartagena@washingtonian.com.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.