Home EntertainmentCelebrity Dave Chappelle rejects his high school’s offer to name the theater after him amid controversy

Dave Chappelle rejects his high school’s offer to name the theater after him amid controversy

by YAR

Dave Chappelle announced that his alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, will no longer bear his name on its theater.

The comedy icon, who graduated from Washington, DC Public High School in 1991, surprised the audience at Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the student theater when he made the announcement. Instead, the theater will be called Theater for Freedom and Artistic Expression.

Chappelle said during the ceremony that he turned down the honor because he didn’t want his name to distract from the students’ work.

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts decided to change the name of the theater to Chappelle last year and scheduled a fundraiser in November. But the school postponed the event after controversy escalated following Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer,” which included graphic jokes about transgender women and the LGBTQ community.

Chappelle in November urged people in an Instagram post to donate to the school regardless of whether they agree with its name in the theater.

“Duke Ellington School is a glorious institution. Within those walls I found a context to seriously explore my creativity,” Chappelle wrote, adding, “My sole intention is to assure Duke Ellington the opportunity to train his artists without restriction.”

The Netflix special sparked a firestorm of controversy over Chappelle’s comments about the trans community. Duke Ellington students joined the protest.

Chappelle said Monday that the students’ criticism “honestly hurt me.”

“I got a lot of cold snaps in business…but that day, I got hurt,” the stand-up icon told the boisterous crowd at the ceremony.

Chappelle said that instead of rejecting the eponym outright, he would “defer” renaming his school’s theater to emphasize “the nuance of art” as well as “my right, my freedom of artistic expression” by changing the name to Theater of Artistic Arts. Freedom & Expression.

After voicing his decision, which he said he made on Friday, the crowd erupted in applause and gave Chappelle a standing ovation.

“No matter what anyone says about ‘The Closer,’ it’s still (one of the) most-watched specials on Netflix,” Chappelle said. “The more you say that I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you say that I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.”

Philip Lewis contributed reporting.

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