Congratulations are unfortunately not in order for comedian Dave Chappelle, as it was revealed his alma mater, Duke Ellington School of Arts in Washington D.C., won’t be renaming its theater after him after all.
According to USA Today, on Monday, Chappelle made the announcement himself during the renaming ceremony, explaining that the decision stems from the backlash he received from current students at the school over his now-controversial Netflix special, The Closer. The theater will now be known as the Theater of Artistic Freedom and Expression instead.
Referencing the comments made by students back then, Chappelle said in his speech: “No matter what they say about The Closer, it is still [one of the] most-watched specials on Netflix. The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.”
He later went on to refer to his special as a “masterpiece,” noting that it received maltreatment from the media and that while students had everything to say about gender, “they didn’t say anything about art.” Thus, the specific renaming of the theater to include the terms “artistic freedom and expression” was intentional on Chappelle’s part in an effort to highlight “the nuance of art.”
As previously reported by The Root, in the aftermath of The Closer’s release, the comedian was called out by the National Black Justice Coalition and GLAAD for his “lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia”-laced jokes. Trans employees of Netflix and their allies also staged a walkout as Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos seemingly doubled down in his support for the comedian and not his employees. Chappelle later said he was ready to come to the table with a listening ear for those trans employees, but that he wouldn’t “bend to anyone’s demands.”