Story at a glance

  • Dave Chappelle’s former high school said it would move forward with plans to rename one of its theaters after the controversial comic even despite concerns from some of its students.
  • Chapelle visited the school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, last week, where he was reportedly accosted by students during a Q&A.
  • The comedian devised a fundraising contest to either condemn or condone the renaming, but the school said it would name the theater after him regardless of the winner.

Dave Chappelle’s former high school over the weekend said it would rename one of its theaters after the comedian despite backlash over recent jokes that took aim at the transgender community, upsetting some of the school’s students.

Chappelle’s alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., postponed a renaming ceremony earlier this month after some students expressed concern over jokes made in the comic’s recent Netflix special, “The Closer.” The renaming, which had been scheduled for Nov. 23, should go forward April 22, the school said in a statement.

Chappelle in “The Closer,” which debuted in early October, says: “Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact.”

He also says he’s on “Team TERF,” or trans-exclusionary radical feminist, and makes explicit jokes about trans women’s bodies.

Chappelle last week visited Duke Ellington and held a Q&A session for its students, where his young critics made their opinions of his controversial special known, POLITICO reported.

One student reportedly called Chappelle “childish” and a “bigot.”


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On Saturday, Chappelle in an Instagram post said he would accept the outcome of a fundraising contest he created in which donations to the school could be made either condoning or condemning the theater’s name change.

“If you object to my receiving this honor, I urge you to donate to the school, noting your objection. If you are in favor of the theater being named ‘Chappelle,’ I urge you to donate to the school, noting your approval. Whichever opinion donates the highest collective dollar amount, wins,” he said in the post.

But the school on Sunday said it would move forward with its plans regardless of the winner.

“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 theatre after Chappelle,” the school said in a statement posted to its website

“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,” the statement reads. “Although it appears that the clear majority of students at Ellington favor naming the theater for Dave Chappelle, we are seizing this moment to demonstrate the importance of carefully listening to every voice within our diverse and inclusive community. Our purpose is not to form a uniformity of viewpoints, but to help instill genuine, respectful curiosity in perspectives that challenge one’s own.”

All donations, which can be made on the school’s website, will fund the institution’s arts programming and each donor, “irrespective of their support or opposition to the theater naming,” will be thanked by the school, it said.


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Published on Nov 29, 2021