Last year, prior to The Closer’s release, it was announced that Dave Chappelle’s high school Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest Washington would be naming their auditorium after the comedian. He stated at the time that it was a huge honor.
“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 at the time. “But I understand it because sometimes when you love things, they love you back. And I loved that school.”
The ceremony which was planned for November of 2021 was postponed after the controversy over the special. At that time, the principal of the school met with students who were protesting the name change in light of Chappelle’s special to hear their concerns.
Well last night was finally the night for the school’s auditorium to be named the Dave Chappelle theater. The school had been advertising that “the naming comes in appreciation for his ongoing commitment and service to the school and advocacy for the arts.” While onstage for the ceremony last night, however, Chappelle made a surprising announcement. He was turning down the honor. Instead, the school will be named the Theatre for Artistic Freedom & Expression.
According to the Washington Post, Chappelle “told the audience Monday that while he thought the backlash against him lacked nuance and wasn’t about his work, he didn’t want a theater bearing his name to distract from students focusing on the meaning of their art,” while adding that the criticism did sincerely hurt him.
Chappelle has also pledged to donate $100,000 to the school and said that the “Duke Ellington family is my family.”