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Comedian Dave Chappelle’s alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., had originally planned to honor its most famous alumni by naming its new performing arts center after him. But, following student backlash, Chappelle has declined the honor.
Woke students were outraged that the theatre might bear his name after the release of his Netflix comedy special, The Closer, which had been deemed “transphobic.”
The outrage caused the dedication ceremony to be postponed in November, but it finally took place on Monday. During the ceremony, Chappelle revealed that instead, the theatre will be named Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Chappelle had donated $100,000 for the school’s new theater and had originally said that having it named for him was “the most significant honor of my life.” Despite the outrage from woke students, the school still planned to name the new theatre after Chappelle, and his announcement during the dedication came as a surprise.
“Chappelle was a theatre student at Duke Ellington and that theater is his home,” the school said in a statement. “He wanted to pay homage to a place that nurtured his talent and helped him learn that sky’s the limit when you pursue your dreams and stay true to yourself as an artist. He wanted students for generations to come to know that artistic freedom is a human right, and to uplift conversations around creative expression and artistic responsibility. The theater for Artistic Freedom and Creative Expression is a symbol of hope so Ellington’s young artists can continue to have challenging conversations needed to change the world.”
I find it hard to believe that students triggered by the idea of naming the theatre after Chappelle won’t similarly be triggered by a theatre named for “artistic freedom and expression.”
We’ll just have to see how long that lasts.