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Duke Ellington School of the Arts will rename one of the institution’s theaters after Dave Chappelle no matter the outcome of a fundraising contest the comic suggested after his recent visit to the school apparently went off the rails.
Earlier this month, not long after his Netflix special The Closer created a firestorm, Chappelle’s alma mater announced it would postpone a ceremony to rename a theater after the comedian.
Last Tuesday, the Grammy-winning comic held a Q&A session for a packed crowd of students at the Washington, D.C., school, where those who took issue with his latest and highly controversial Netflix special reportedly made their passionate opinions known.
Then on Saturday, Chappelle posted on Instagram that he would accept the outcome of a contest he devised in which donations to the school could be made either condoning or condemning the theater name change. “My only intent is to ensure Duke Ellington the opportunity to train its artists unfettered,” Chappelle said in part in the Instagram post.
However, the school says the fundraising contest — while appreciated — is moot. The theater will be renamed after Chappelle.
“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,” reads a statement from the school. “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.”
Continued the statement, “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. He also wanted to directly express support for their safety in light of some disturbing online comments targeting the Ellington community.”
In addition to addressing the renaming, the school’s statement noted media reports of the interactions during his visit were erroneous.
“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,” reads the school’s statement. “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. Although it appears that the clear majority of students at Ellington favor naming the theater for Dave Chappelle, we are seizing this moment to demonstrate the importance of carefully listening to every voice within our diverse and inclusive community.”
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