Dave Chappelle’s high school alma mater had plans to name their theater after the comedian’s $100,000 donation to the school. But in a plot twist, the comedian revealed he had a different name in mind.
On Monday night (June 20), the comedian took to the mic at the inauguration of what many believed to be the moment he announced the theater’s official renaming to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC Instead, Chappelle revealed the theater would be called Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression – a direct reference to the recent controversies the icon has found herself in.
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Seemingly making a connection between the theater’s new name and its current drama, the actor-comedian opened up about the importance of free speech, even mentioning his controversial Netflix special. The nearerwhich came under fire for its comments on the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I saw in the newspaper that a man wearing women’s clothing threw a cake at the Mona Lisa and tried to deface it. And it made me laugh and I was like, ‘It’s like The nearer,’ explained the comedian.
Dave Chappelle continued to reflect on his recent controversy, challenging the notion that he couldn’t say certain things and insisting he could and should do so in the name of art.
“You can’t report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance. So if you say I can’t say something, I feel more urgent to say it. It has nothing to do with what you say, I can’t say. It all has to do with my artistic freedom.”
Closing his speech, Chappelle mentioned that the kids who protested him last year “didn’t understand that they are instruments of oppression” and pushing someone else’s agenda. He also mentioned that naming the school after himself was out of the question, as the idea of the comedian’s name being “turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression” was “untenable.”
After the premiere of his Netflix special The nearerChappelle has received backlash for his comments since late 2021. Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community saw some of the special’s jokes as transphobic and dangerous, and have called for the streaming platform to take action against the legend.
It was at his high school alma mater that students challenged Chappelle about his language, protesting against him in the process.
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