Duke Ellington School theater will not be named after Dave Chappelle

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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 would not be named after him.

Chappelle, one of the school’s most famous alumni, was in town Monday night for a groundbreaking ceremony for the venue.

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

The dedication was originally postponed last November after critics slammed the comedian’s high-profile Netflix special, “The Closer,” as transphobic. Ellington students have also raised concerns.

Chappelle told the audience on Monday that while he thought the backlash against him lacked nuance and wasn’t about his work, he didn’t want a theater named after him to distract students who focus on meaning. of their art.

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

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

At the time of the controversy last year, 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 a student leadership advisory committee which included gender and school representatives from the school. Alliance of sexuality.

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“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 teachable moment,” the school wrote in a statement. communicated.

Founded in 1974 with a mission to provide free, first-class art education to children in the nation’s capital, Duke Ellington attracts students from across the city and is one of the few art schools in the region to form a body predominantly black student.

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

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

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