Dave Chappelle declines that Duke Ellington School Theater is named for him

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In a surprise move, comedian Dave Chappelle announced that the Duke Ellington School of the Arts student theater in northwest Washington will not bear his name.

Chappelle, one of the school’s most famous students, was in town Monday night for a site dedication ceremony.

Instead, it will be called the Theater for Freedom and Artistic Expression.

The dedication was initially postponed last November after critics criticized the comic book’s high-profile Netflix special, “The Closer,” as transphobic. Ellington students also expressed concern.

Chappelle told the audience on Monday that while he thought the reaction against him was nuanced and not his play, he did not want a theater that bore his name to distract students who focus on meaning. of his art.

He also noted that the criticism hurt him “sincerely.”

Chappelle said he decided on Friday not to have his name on the school. “But the Ellington family is my family,” he said.

At the time of last year’s controversy, Duke Ellington principal Sandi Logan said she had had formal and informal meetings with students to discuss Chappelle’s comments, including a month of weekly meetings with an advisory committee. student leaders which included representatives of the gender and gender school. Sexuality Alliance.

Duke Ellington School is delaying the appointment of the theater with Dave Chappelle until April

“Moving forward with the event … without first addressing the questions and concerns of members of the Ellington community would be a missed opportunity for a teaching moment,” the school wrote in a statement.

Founded in 1974 with the mission of providing free, first-class arts education to children in the country’s capital, Duke Ellington attracts students from all over the city and is one of the few art schools in the area that educates a body. of mostly black students.

Chappelle, who pledged to donate $ 100,000 to the school theater, said last October that having the theater christened with him was “the most important honor of my life.”

“I used to skip school. I hid inside when I skipped class. Who would have thought that theater would one day bear my name? Chappelle said in a speech to donors to raise money for Ellington before the screening. from “The Closer” at the Angelika Pop-Up Theater in Union Market. “But I understand that because sometimes, when you love things, they love you. And I loved that school. “

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