The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., announced in a statement that it will stand by its decision to name the school’s theatre after comedian Dave Chappelle in spite of the controversy over his Netflix special “The Closer” that progressives have called anti-LGBT.
Chappelle’s former high school originally postponed the naming ceremony due to threats of a potential walkout by students who were “uncomfortable” with his comedy. The protests from students came just weeks after the comedian pledged to donate $100,000 to the arts school, according to DailyMail.com.
“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,” said the school in an official statement.
The school intends to use the naming ceremony as a teaching moment in an attempt to create a space of “diverse viewpoints.”
“Additionally, using Chappelle’s latest works as the impetus, we have expanded our Social Studies curriculum to include content related to political activism, civic engagement, arts activism, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Our objective is to uplift conversations around artistic freedom and artistic responsibility,” the school said in its statement.
In an Instagram post on Saturday, Chappelle proposed a challenge in order to raise donations for the school, in which the person offering the highest donation could keep his name on the school’s theatre or change it to honor Peggy Cooper Cafritz.
“Talk is cheap (Unless I do it). The Duke Ellington School is a glorious institution. Within those walls I found a context to exploit my creativity seriously. Duke Ellington, in large part, prepared me to undertake this noble and difficult profession,” Chappelle said on Instagram Saturday.
Duke Ellington High School said it would not change the name of the theatre but would accept all donations made to the school, according to The Hill.