The backlash to Dave Chappelle’s The Closer, according to him, cost him some film festival invites due to his unapologetic stance regarding his trans jokes (and his choice to side declare himself “Team TERF” in alliance with JK Rowling’s position). And last week, his (high school) alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown, signaled that they were distancing themselves from the controversial comedian as well. Following a mounting revolt by students, the school “quietly cancelled” a fundraiser that was meant to raise money for an on-campus theater named after Chappelle. The situation continues, and according to the Washington Post, the act of putting Chappelle’s name on the theater has been delayed.
The planned dedication for the venue was previously scheduled for November 23, but given “concerns” from students, Duke Ellington is pumping the brakes. The renaming isn’t cancelled, but The Post reports word from the school that “moving forward with the event … without first addressing questions and concerns from members of the Ellington Community would be a missed opportunity for a teachable moment.” At this time, the renaming has been rescheduled for next April 22, which the school hopes will give time for reassessing the issue Here’s more on the rationale behind the decision:
In an interview, Duke Ellington Principal Sandi Logan said she has had both 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 includes representatives from the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance.
The school plans to continue those discussions in the coming months. It said Friday that it has expanded its social studies curriculum “to include content related to political activism, civic engagement, arts activism, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.”
“On our end, we just needed a little time to get our community to at least have the conversation — not to maybe change minds. That is never our objective,” Logan said. “We needed that time to be able to get conversation and meaningful progress within the community, not a Band-Aid.”
The Washington Post notes that some Duke Ellington students have expressed feeling “uncomfortable” with Chappelle’s name ending up on the theater, which is “what some referred to as the heart of the school.” Previously, Chappelle declared that the renaming would be “the most significant honor of my life.” Following the decision to postpone the renaming, Chappelle representative Carla Sims stated that the comedian “supports the school and any effort to contribute to open conversations vs. cancellations.”
In the meantime, Chappelle’s tour appearances continue. Last week in Des Moines, Iowa, he told a packed audience, “Boy, I went too far with The Closer. The trans always get mad, but this time I did it.”