The Duke Ellington School Theater will not be named after Dave Chappelle

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

Chappelle, one of the school’s most famous alumni, was in town Monday night for an inauguration ceremony for the place.

It will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Freedom of Expression.

The inauguration had originally been postponed last November after critics described the comedian’s high-profile Netflix special, “The Closer,” as transphobic. Ellington students also expressed concern.

Chappelle told the audience on Monday that although he felt the backlash against him lacked nuance and was not about his work, he did not want a theater with his name to distract from students who focused on the meaning of their art.

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

Chappelle said he decided Friday not to have 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 an advisory committee of student leaders that included representatives of the school’s gender and Sexuality Alliance.

Duke Ellington School postpones the naming of the theater after Dave Chappelle until April

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

Established 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 area to educate a mostly black student.

Chappelle, who promised to donate $ 100,000 to the school’s theater, said in October last year that having the theater named after him was “the most significant honor of my life.”

“I used to skip school. I would hide in there when I skipped class. Who would have thought that theater would one day be named after me?” Chappelle said in a speech to donors to raise money for Ellington before a screening of “The Closer” at the Angelika Pop-Up Theater at Union Market. “But I understand that because sometimes when you love things, they love you back. . And I loved that school. “

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