News & Politics

Duke Ellington School of the Arts Will Still Name Its Theater After Dave Chappelle

Students reportedly considered a walkout to protest a school fundraiser with the controversial comedian.

Photo by Flickr user John Bauld.

Despite backlash against Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, Duke Ellington School of the Arts still plans to name its theater after the controversial alum. Chappelle’s Netflix special the Closer has been panned by some critics who describe the jokes as transphobic.

Politico Playbook reported today that a school fundraiser with Chappelle— scheduled for November 23—had been canceled after students dissented against the event’s planned tribute to the comedian. According to Politico, students considered a walkout in support of their LGBTQ+ peers.

However, in a statement released today, Duke Ellington announced that despite the students’ opposition, the theater designation would still move forward in April 2022. The Georgetown school cited Chappelle’s active participation as an alum—gifting his Emmy award to the school and donating $100,000—as well as his role in elevating Duke Ellington’s profile. It said that the desire to name the theater after Chappelle came from the late Peggy Cooper Cafritz, one of the school’s founders.

As for the comedy special? The statement notes:

The Closer — the most watched comedy special in Netflix’s history, which has garnered a 96% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes — has sparked a national debate around race, gender, sexuality and “cancel culture.” 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. 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.

Read the school’s full statement here.

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Daniella Byck
Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture.