Duke Ellington School: Dave Chappelle’s alma mater 'cancels' comedian over trans rights
Dave Chappelle’s old high school had to postpone his appearance for a planned fundraiser after students threatened to walk out. The latest controversy is one of the many the comedian has attracted after his Netflix special ‘The Closer’ was released in September and several people, especially the LGBTQ+ community, labelled his views on the show as "anti-transgender."
In the show, Chappelle reportedly recalled the time he had to deal with transgender people taking offense at his jokes. He also added that “gender is a fact” in the show and called himself “team TERF” — an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminists. His comments hurt many Netflix employees, who demonstrated against him on October 20.
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However, now his former high school — Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown — has canceled the fundraiser scheduled for November 23 after students protested. The event has been shifted to April 22, 2022. In a statement on its website, the school noted, “On April 22, 2022, we will celebrate one of our most distinguished alumni, Dave Chappelle, by naming our theatre in his honor. This theatre naming was the desire of one of our founders, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who recognized Chappelle as an important thought leader of our time,” before mentioning, “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. We also believe moving forward with the event, originally scheduled for November 23, 2021, without first addressing questions and concerns from members of the Ellington community, would be a missed opportunity for a teachable moment.”
It added, “Through these endeavors, we want our students to own their art and understand that being an artist and public figure comes with both responsibility and an increased level of scrutiny. We recognize that not everyone will accept or welcome a particular artist’s point of view, product or craft, but reject the notion that a ‘cancel culture’ is a healthy or constructive means to teach our students how society should balance creative freedom with protecting the rights and dignity of all its members.”
The school’s principal Sandi Logan also issued a statement that read, “As an Arts institution, Ellington is uniquely poised to be on the forefront of this important conversation. The new date gives Ellington the chance to not only lean into the discussion sparked by the Special, but to lead it, especially since Dave is one of our own.” After the postponement of the fundraising, Chappelle's publicist, Carla Sims, said to Fox News in a statement: “Dave is an artist and activist and applauds the school taking time to develop creative and critical thinkers. He supports the school’s effort to contribute to open conversations vs cancellations.”
During a recent stand-up show, Chappelle reacted to the backlash and said that due to outcry he “can’t even raise money for children.” He told the audience, “They're canceling stuff I didn't even want to do."