Dave Chappelle’s high school cancels fundraiser for theater named in his honor

Students of Duke Ellington School of the Arts threatened a walkout, saying many of their peers identify as LGBTQ+

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Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., has canceled a planned fundraiser with alumnus Dave Chappelle after students threatened a walkout. 

The fundraiser and dedication for The Dave Chappelle Theatre was set to take place on Nov. 23. 

Dave Chappelle attends the UK premiere of “Dave Chappelle: Untitled” at Cineworld Leicester Square earlier this month in London, England. (Photo: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)

According to a report from the Politico Playbook, two students got into a heated debate with staff after being told they were expected to host an exhibition on the day of the event. Chappelle was expected to attend. 

The students said that they were uncomfortable supporting Chappelle because many of their peers identify as LGBTQ+. 

In the past, Chappelle has regularly visited the school, has donated $100,000 to his alma mater, gifted it one of his Emmy awards, delivered a commencement address in 2015, and held a master class for Ellington students. 

However, Chappelle’s most recent controversy surrounding statements that he has made about transgender people, particularly in his most recent Netflix special, The Closer, and statements that he has continued to make about the community has incensed the students at the famed arts school. 

According to a report from The Washington PostChappelle was in D.C. just hours before The Closer was released on Netflix, and in a pop-up screening of the special, he raised money for the school. 

“I’m happy that you’re interested in the special,” Chappelle said in his speech to donors at the Angelika Pop-Up theater at Union Market, per the report. “I’m happier that you’re interested in Ellington.”

Chappelle told the audience that having the school name a theater after him was “the most significant honor” of his life. 

Dave Chappelle thegrio.com
(Credit: Getty Images)

He noted that “I used to skip school. I would hide in there when I was skipping class. Who would have thought that that theater would one day be named after me?” Chappelle said. “But I understand it because sometimes when you love things, they love you back. And I loved that school.”

The Post noted that Chappelle plans to raise nearly $1.5 million to support teacher salaries at the school. “The Ellington School saved my life,” Chappelle said.

Ellington’s principal, Sandi Logan, confirmed Chappelle’s support: “Every time we ask him to do something, he’s always done it.” 

The comedian has claimed in recent weeks that he has been “canceled,” due to his remarks about transgender people in The Closer, where he likened being transgender to wearing blackface. 

Chappelle has not yet issued a response to the cancellation of the event. 

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts was founded over 40 years ago, and according to its website is an exemplary school that teaches a full academic course as well as an arts major: Dance, Literary Media, and Communications, Museum Studies, Instrumental or Vocal Music, Theatre, Technical Design, and Production, or Visual Arts.

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