Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Discover what the NMAAHC has to offer your family and friends and add it to your travel bucket list.


Ever since its dedication on the National Mall in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has been one of the most popular Smithsonian institutions. So many people include this museum in their Washington, D.C., itinerary that you need a timed entry pass to gain admission. Tourists can brave either the periodic timed pass release four months in advance, or try the 6:30 a.m. same-day pass release online. I recommend that you request an early entry time, like 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., to get ahead of the crowds and see as much as you can before the museum closes at 5:30 p.m.

Typically, I don’t recommend museum food, but the Sweet Home Café is really at another level in taste, quality, and ambience. It features classic dishes at four very distinct stations representing the Southern, Creole, Northern, and Western regions. Café staff are among the friendliest and personable I’ve met at a museum. Stop at the café rightbefore you embark with your group into the galleries. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time backtracking from the exhibits to the café and then finding your exhibit. Continue reading “Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture”

Made in Hong Kong Film Festival: A Salute to Kara Wai

If you’ve never heard of the Made in Hong Kong Film Festival, it’s a wonderful event cosponsored by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office. 2016 marks the twenty-first year since the Festival’s inception in Washington, D.C., with a spectacular line up of films from July 15 through August 7 at the National Museum of American History.

Photo of Actress Kara Wai
Photo of Kara Wai courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Sunday afternoon featured the second day of a Salute to Kara Wai with a special screening of My Young Auntie (1981). The fifty-six year-old actress won her first Hong Kong Film Award for her performance in the funny and intense kung fu classic made by the Shaw Brothers studio. She plays a young student who marries her dying teacher to protect his inheritance. She delivers the deed to her new nephew and grand-nephew, but greedy relatives are not too far behind. Continue reading “Made in Hong Kong Film Festival: A Salute to Kara Wai”

Theater Review (Washington, D.C.): Special Performances of ‘The Originalist’ at Arena Stage

Edward Gero stands out with a brilliant portrayal of Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court Justice.

In July 2012, I won a ticket lottery during my summer internship on Capitol Hill. The speaker slated at the closing lecture was the late Justice Antonin Scalia. To my surprise, Scalia devoted his hour to Q&A time rather than to a prepared speech.

Photo of Edward Gero and Kerry Warren in 'The Originalist'
(L to R) Edward Gero as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Kerry Warren as Cat in The Originalist at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater March 6-April 26, 2015. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

I was struck by a couple of things about Antonin Scalia as I sat in the Supreme Court. He was very polite. Second, he seemed genuinely excited that all of us were interested in government and law, regardless of our backgrounds. He was also quite passionate about looking at the original meanings and contexts within the U.S. Constitution. “I am a textualist. I am an originalist. I am not a nut!” he exclaimed to us. Continue reading “Theater Review (Washington, D.C.): Special Performances of ‘The Originalist’ at Arena Stage”

Interview with Social Secretary Amanda Downes on British Embassy Open House Day 2016

Amanda Downes discusses the highlights of this year’s open house and working with the new British Ambassador to the US.

The British Embassy in Washington, D.C., held an open house on Saturday, May 14thThe annual event is run in conjunction with other European Union embassies in our nation’s capital. Members of the public can visit the residence, see the grounds, and enjoy many activities focused on U.K. culture. I interviewed Amanda Downes on behalf of Blogcritics prior to the open house to discuss the joyous occasion. She currently serves as the Social Secretary to Sir Kim Darroch, British Ambassador to the United States.

Residence of the British Ambassador to the US
Ambassador’s Residence. Credit: British Embassy, Washington, DC.

You’ve worked with the British Embassy for over 26 years. What’s a major challenge in doing such a large scale, open invitation event like this one?

I must confess from the beginning that I’m a very small cog in this big wheel we have here, particularly on this event. We have a fantastic team in the Embassy to lead on this one. The one thing we really want people to have is a wonderful experience here, as well as showcasing the United Kingdom. Obviously, the weather plays a huge part and I fear we have rather British weather tomorrow. I think it might be another ‘bring a brolly day.’ We will carry on, rain or shine. We want people to enjoy themselves, be safe and go away with a good feeling about the U.K. and hopefully visit the U.K. Continue reading “Interview with Social Secretary Amanda Downes on British Embassy Open House Day 2016”

Book Tour: Buzz Aldrin’s ‘No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon’

The former astronaut discusses his memoir, the moon landing, and Mars as the future of space missions.

Christina Korp and Buzz Aldrin
Christina Korp interviews Buzz Aldrin at Sixth & I. Credit: Pat Cuadros.

This week, the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue set a couple of records by hosting an astronaut and a former Dancing with the Stars contestant in its sanctuary. The distinguished guest, Buzz Aldrin, was interviewed by Christina Korp, his Mission Control Director, about the memoir he co-authored with Ken Abraham. No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon covers his space flights, but also shares a lot of information about his early life.

There’s a lot of advice one can take from Aldrin, who landed on the moon in 1969. For starters, as he puts it, “Failure is an option.” He was rejected each time he applied to be a Rhodes Scholar (twice). He was also denied on his first application to NASA. Even after getting accepted into NASA, he was on the backup crew on at least a couple of occasions, which he likened to getting a “dead end assignment.” Continue reading “Book Tour: Buzz Aldrin’s ‘No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon’”

Marvel Men: Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on Bringing ‘Captain America’ to the Screen

Joe and Anthony Russo talk ‘Captain America’ and unleash a potential spoiler for ‘Avengers: Infinity Wars.’

'Captain America: Civil War' Poster
Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Associates.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo addressed a crowd of about 900 Marvel fans on Wednesday evening in Washington, DC. The brothers, known for their work on Community and Arrested Development, were at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) for a revealing interview with NPR critic Linda Holmes. The event was presented by Smithsonian Associates. Their latest film,Captain America: Civil War, opened the same day in U.S. theaters and it is expected to top the box office this weekend. Civil War focuses on the conflict between two respective groups of Marvel Universe characters, referenced by fans as “Team Iron Man” and “Team Cap.”

Joe and Anthony also comprised the team behind Captain America: Winter Soldier, which they themselves classified as a political thriller. In contrast, as Anthony Russo pointed out, Civil War was developed in the style of a psychological thriller. He and Joe provided guidance to the actors on scenes by mentioning films to them such as Seven, Fargo, Blow Out, and even The Godfather. The last film in that list may not seem as obvious, unless you liken Civil War to a breakup of a family. Continue reading “Marvel Men: Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on Bringing ‘Captain America’ to the Screen”

Alex Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ Come to DC for Power Players Week

It’s truly amazing to see Alex Trebek in action with the crew, contestants, and audience.

Jeopardy! in Washington DC Promo Photo
Credit: ‘Jeopardy!’ and Sony Pictures.

For years, I’ve had the following item on my bucket list: “Attend a taping of Jeopardy!” Typically, you have to venture out to Culver City, CA, to see the famous game show. However, in the last five years, the iconic clue board, buzzers, and contestant stands have come twice to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.

The first instance was in 2012, when I witnessed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper beat NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and economist Thomas L. Friedman. That same afternoon, I saw Fox News anchor Chris Wallace win against Dr. Mehmet Oz and BBC America’s Katty Kay. These contests were among several panels in the highly anticipated Power Players Week: when well-known individuals in media, news, and politics compete and win prize money for charity.

Three weeks ago, I returned to DAR for another Power Players Week taping. I don’t know how the filming transpires in California, but it’s a unique experience in our nation’s capital. For starters, reporters and camera crews milled around onstage for interviews until the contestants took their places. When the familiar opening credits finally rolled, Jimmy McGuire from the Clue Crew walked out to run the practice games instead of Alex Trebek.

The first match-up consisted of Louis C.K. (Horace and Pete), CNN’s Kate Bolduan (At This Hour), and the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. I loved their chemistry on-stage as they laughed about the clues that they missed in the practice game. It was also amusing when a clue winner forgot that he or she needed to pick the next clue. Senator Al Franken, political analyst Ana Navarro, and legal analyst Sunny Hostin were not so enjoyable during their practice. There was something about the exchanges between Franken and Navarro that felt slightly off compared to the joviality and easygoing nature of first group.

Alex Trebek. Credit: ‘Jeopardy!’ and Sony Pictures.

Alex Trebek, who turns 76 this year, managed the actual games and announced clues at a quick pace. However, the astonishing aspect of the taping is what he did off-script and off-camera. Trebek was very involved with the crew in catching errors; he reread clues for the sound team and pointed out dollar amounts to be removed from the board. “I love the power,” he joked. “Say it and it’s done!”

“We can chat or you guys can take naps,” he said to the audience when he strode to the front of the stage at the first commercial break. He would cast Kevin Kline, Johnny Depp, Kevin Spacey, or Betty White to play him in a biopic. “Get her out of here,” he quipped after a little girl asked who he knew from the Harry Potter films – yes, the late Alan Rickman. He looked out solemnly during another break and reminded everyone, “Canada is your neighbor.” Trebek would have made a brilliant and entertaining stand-up comedian.

Serious questions were also interesting. He spent the previous weekend rebuilding the washing machine. Dancing with the Stars reached out to him 3 times with invitations to compete. He’d like to have Kevin Spacey as a Jeopardy! contestant someday. He wisely refrained from weighing in on the 2016 Presidential election.

I can’t imagine what’s in store for Jeopardy! when Trebek eventually leaves the helm of what’s become the longest-running game show on American television. He’s been the host since 1984, before quite a few fans like me were even born. It’s truly amazing to see him in action with the crew, contestants, and audience. His current contract concludes with the 2017-2018 season. If that’s indeed the end, I highly recommend that you obtain tickets, which are free, for a taping session.

Be sure to check out Power Players Week when it airs the week of May 16.

This article was originally published on under the same title.