Dave Chappelle: Duke Ellington School does an abrupt u-turn, will now name theater after him

Duke Ellington School of the Arts had earlier postponed the renaming ceremony after a protest by students over Netflix special ‘The Closer’


                            Dave Chappelle: Duke Ellington School does an abrupt u-turn, will now name theater after him
Dave Chappelle attends the 22nd Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at The Kennedy Center on October 27, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Dave Chappelle’s old high school has decided to rename its theatre after the comedian after all. Duke Ellington School of the Arts had earlier postponed the renaming ceremony after its students threatened to walk out following a controversy over the comedian's Netflix special ‘The Closer’. The special has been under intense scrutiny, with the comedian accused of being trans-phobic.

Chappelle had reportedly compared the genitals of trans women to plant-based meat alternatives in his show. He also added that “gender is a fact” and called himself “team TERF” — an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminists, which angered many, including students at his former high school.

READ MORE

Duke Ellington School: Dave Chappelle’s alma mater 'cancels' comedian over trans rights

Outrage after Dave Chappelle drops 'N-word', humiliates Duke Ellington School students

In response, Chappelle announced he would “step aside” from the renaming honor if his critics' donations would be more than his supporters. But a fundraiser event scheduled for November 23 at the school was canceled. At the time, a statement from the school read, “The Closer has sparked a national debate around race, gender, sexuality and ‘cancel culture.’ As a learning institution that champions inclusivity, diversity, equity and belonging, we care deeply about protecting the well-being and dignity of every member of our student body, faculty and community.”

Dave Chappelle attends the 2018 Netflix Primetime Emmys After Party at NeueHouse Hollywood on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Netflix)

However, now the Duke Ellington School of the Arts has changed its stance and said, “We stand behind our decision to honor the wishes of our co-founder, the late Peggy Cooper Cafritz, to name the theater after Chappelle.”

Why did Dave Chappelle's school change its mind?

In a statement released on Sunday, November 28, the school said, “Recently, Dave Chappelle, via his Instagram page, challenged those who both support and oppose the decision to name the theater at Duke Ellington School of the Arts after him through a fundraising contest. While we appreciate Dave’s impromptu and spirited fundraising initiative, we stand behind our decision to honor the wishes of our co-founder, the late Peggy Cooper Cafritz, to name the theater after Chappelle. All donations will go towards arts programming and every donor, irrespective of their support or opposition to the theater naming, will receive an official thank you from our team.”

Dave Chappelle attends Backstage Creations Giving Suite At The 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for Backstage Creations)

The statement continued, “Chappelle cares deeply about Ellington and its students and regards them as family. He made an unannounced visit before the Thanksgiving break to meet with his Ellington family and to hear directly from the few students who have concerns about his recent comedy special, ‘The Closer,’" before adding, “While there has been extensive media coverage about the theater naming and Chappelle’s most recent visit to the school, the source stories that have gone viral have been inaccurate, devoid of context, and neglected to include the nuances of art. As an art institution, we educate our students on the importance of media literacy and art as a free and open form of expression to both reflect and challenge society.”

“Our purpose is not to form a uniformity of viewpoints, but to help instill genuine, respectful curiosity in perspectives that challenge one’s own. Ellington’s mission is to nurture and develop artist citizens. In light of this, Ellington has expanded its social studies curriculum to respond to the ever-changing social climate and relies heavily on our ability to incorporate real-life experiences into teachable moments,” it concluded.