The Duke Ellington School of the Arts has issued a statement that addresses its decision to rename its theater after Dave Chappelle.
Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix comedy special, The Closer, has brought many prevalent issues to the forefront of popular culture since its release, including racism, transphobia, and the dangers of PC and cancel culture. His jokes about the trans community as well as the LGTBQ community as a whole have especially caused division amongst viewers and critics, and a fundraiser at his old high school was subsequently canceled following a threatened walkout by its current students. Dave Chappelle eventually visited the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. to hear out the students’ grievances, and shortly thereafter, it was reported that the Q&A session didn’t go too well.
According to Complex, Duke Ellington has officially decided that it will proceed with renaming its theater in Dave Chappelle’s honor, despite the backlash from some of its students. Its decision comes days after Chappelle encouraged his critics and supporters to let their money speak for them through donations to the school.
“If you object to my receiving this honor, I urge you to donate to the school, noting your object,” Chappelle stated in an Instagram post last week. “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.”
Check out the Chappelle’s Show creator’s full statement below.
The school has also issued a statement on the matter, in which they commend Dave Chappelle’s Instagram funding initiative while making it clear that the theater will be renamed after the comedian in April 2022, regardless of any opinionated donations.
“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 Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ statement reads. “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.”
“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,” the statement continues. “While there has been extensive media coverage about the theatre 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.”
Justifying its decision once more, the school’s statement reads, “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.”
You can read the Duke Ellington School of the Arts’s full statement here.