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DC School Holds Off on Naming Its Theater After Alumnus Dave Chappelle

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The Duke Ellington School of the Arts has pushed back the date of its fundraiser for a theater it will name after Dave Chappelle amid controversy around his latest Netflix comedy special.

The event initially scheduled for November 23 is now planned to take place on April 22, 2022.

Chappelle, an alumnus of the school, has been under fire because of his jokes involving the LGBTQ+ community in his recent stand up show, The Closer.

In a release on Friday, November 12, the school stated that the show included “controversial material juxtaposing discrimination against Black Americans with that against non-Black members of the LGBTQ+ community,” adding that it “has sparked a national debate around race, gender, sexuality and ‘cancel culture.”

The statement also acknowledged Chappelle’s contributions to Duke Ellington’s good reputation both nationwide and around the globe, that he provided its students with opportunities to perform at major events, and that he donated his first Emmy Award to the school.

“As a learning institution that champions inclusivity, diversity, equity, and belonging, we care deeply about protecting the well-being and dignity of every member of our student body, faculty, and community,” the statement continued. “We also believe moving forward with the event, originally scheduled for November 23, 2021, without first addressing questions and concerns from members of the Ellington community, would be a missed opportunity for a teachable moment.”

Duke Ellington administrators have been holding ongoing conversations with their students, during which they listen to the students’ opinions and comments on the issue.

“We recognize that not everyone will accept or welcome a particular artist’s point of view, product or craft, but reject the notion that a ‘cancel culture’ is a healthy or constructive means to teach our students how society should balance creative freedom with protecting the rights and dignity of all its members,” the school added.

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