It is common to find schools and halls within to be named after famous figures. While usually of a historic nature, sometimes, schools honor famous celebrities that once graced their halls. It’s not typical, but it’s usually revered as a great honor. However, one celebrity quickly shot down his alma mater’s attempt to name its theater after him, and that’s no one other than famous and often controversial comedian, Dave Chappelle.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is a prestigious high school in Washinton D.C. Graduates of this school go on to colleges and universities to pursue a career in the arts, such as theatre, film, dance, production, and musical studies. The school itself is already named after one of the most famous composers in America’s history. School officials recently chose long-time comedian Dave Chappelle to bestow with the honor of having a theater named after him, but the funny-man refused to allow them to go through with it, mainly because of the way some students at the school had treated him this year.
As Giant Freakin Robot reports, the high school had planned to honor the 48-year-old celeb in the naming ceremony this past Monday night. Dave Chappelle showed up and gave a speech. However, in doing so, he declared that he would not let the high school use his name.
The decision stems from a history of incidents that have occurred over the past year bringing much controversy to the comedian. It all stems back to Dave Chappelle’s stand-up comedy special that aired early last October on Netflix, The Closer. During one bit of the hour-long special, he made jokes targeting trans people. In the aftermath, much of the public called for the comedian’s cancelation.
Of those pushing against Dave Chappelle, many of his naysayers were current students from his alma mater. Fox News reported that Chappelle himself noted this, and added that he was “severely hurt” that the school he has stayed so heavily involved with over the years would turn on him like that. Additionally, given that the school is grounded on a foundation of liberal arts, he expressed his shock that students protesting him would only bring up “ gender” from his stand-up, and not the aspect of “art.”
The naming and ceremony for Dave Chappelle had been halted until just now, largely because of student pushback trying to stop the schools from naming the auditorium after him. The Chappelle Show star even attempted to address his protestors at the school in a civil manner, when he hosted a Q&A session at the school set up for those opposed to his work. Afterward, the school decided to move forward with naming the building after the celebrity.
Dave Chappelle has been involved with a plethora of philanthropic endeavors over his lifetime, especially in regard to the youth of America. He is heavily involved with foundations like Seeds of Peace, along with the multiple, generous donations made to Duke Ellington high school over the years. For the theatre that he refused to be named after him, the comedian was one of the top donors that funded the new auditorium.
In refusing to allow the school to name the theatre after him, Dave Chappelle announced that the building would be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. Ironically enough, freedom of speech seems to be exactly what Chappelle has been trying to fight for throughout this whole debacle, as he vehemently justifies his expression through comedy. Chappelle said he would be open to having his name placed on the building in the future.