A theater at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. has been renamed, just not after Dave Chappelle as previously announced.
Chappelle surprised attendees at the dedication ceremony on Monday night, by announcing the venue will now be called the “Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression” instead of carrying his name, according to the Washington Post.
The comedian said he decided against having his name attached to the theater at his alma mater because he didn’t want to become a distraction.
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Chappelle graduated from the high school in 1991 and has remained a supporter.
Last year, administrators said they planned to honor their most famous graduate by putting his name on the school theater. But the dedication ceremony was postponed in November following backlash over Chappelle’s comments in his Netflix special, The Closer.
Critics, including some students, called out the comedian for making what they considered “transphobic” comments in the special.
Amid backlash, the theater dedication ceremony was postponed. The school issued a lengthy statement last year saying it wanted to take time to address “questions and concerns from members of the Ellington community.”
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Chappelle visited the school last year to smooth things out, but got a chilly reception with some students calling him a “bigot” and “childish.”
The comedian said Monday the criticism “sincerely” hurt him.
Chappelle previously pledged to donate $100,000 for the school’s theater. He said last year having the venue named after him was “the most significant honor of my life.”
This past weekend, the school said on social media it planned to dedicate the “Dave Chappelle Theatre” on June 20.
TOMORROW at 7:30 PM! Join us for The Excellence of Ellington: An Evening with Dave Chappelle!
This event also kicks off our Million Dollar Challenge fundraiser – Click here to read more & purchase tix: https://t.co/E2S3p7s1a6 pic.twitter.com/lBlVX7DgX0
— Duke Ellington School of the Arts (@DukeEllingtonDC) June 19, 2022