Students at the Duke Ellington School for The Arts are threatening a walkout in response to the school’s decision to honor Dave Chappelle with a theater named after him.
According to The Washington Post, the Washington, D.C. school (from which Chappelle graduated in 1991,) was initially going to hold a dedication ceremony on November 23rd. However, the school is now postponing the ceremony until April of next year in order to field concerns from the students, their families, and the broader Ellington community. “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,” the school wrote in a statement published over the weekend.
Students are specifically taking issue with Chappelle’s latest special for Netflix, The Closer, which has been criticized for targeting the LGBTQ community with transphobic and homophobic material. The same special has been at the center of an ongoing debate over artistic freedom and what constitutes hate speech. Upon release, the comedian and the steamer were almost instantly met with backlash both in and outside of Netflix. Employees of the streamer staged a walkout earlier this month in protest of the special and pushed for the platform to showcase more LGBTQ voices to balance out the potential harm of a special like The Closer, in which Chappelle declares himself a “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and frequently invokes violence against women.
Chappelle himself finally addressed the uproar in a video published to his Instagram account a few weeks back. And while he seemed to welcome a discussion with angered Netflix employees, the comedian refused to back down from the sentiments expressed in The Closer. “I said what I said. And boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not?” Chappelle asks. “You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office,” he continued, going on to assert that any meeting between himself and Netflix’s staff would have to happen on his terms.
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