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If nothing else, comedian Dave Chappelle has proven during the recent dustup over daring to joke about transgendered people that he is an intelligent man capable of deeper thought than some give him credit for.
Evidence of this was seen yet again this week when Chappelle made a surprise visit to his alma mater, D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
“Some 580 students packed into an auditorium to hear their school’s most famous alumnus discuss the uproar triggered by his Netflix special ‘The Closer.’ With a camera crew in tow, Chappelle took the stage to a raucous reception of cheers and some boos — and the hourlong session went south from there, we’re told,” Politico Playbook reported.
Going “south” being the reception the comedian received from some students during a Q&A session, such as when a student called Chappelle a “bigot.” Somewhat buried in the story was that, according to a Duke Ellington official, the comedian encouraged students who took issue with his comedy to ask him questions with about eight students doing so.
“I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child,” said the student who reportedly called Chappelle a bigot.
But Chappelle did not tiptoe around the student, and was certainly not going to apologize, replying, “My friend, with all due respect, I don’t believe you could make one of the decisions I have to make on a given day.”
The response didn’t sit well with the audience, according to Politico — here’s more from the online political news site:
In response to another antagonistic question, Chappelle roughly told the student body of artists: “I’m better than every instrumentalist, artist, no matter what art you do in this school, right now, I’m better than all of you. I’m sure that will change. I’m sure you’ll be household names soon.”
The students recalled that another student in the audience shouted at him, “Your comedy kills,” and Chappelle shot back, “N—— are killed every day.” He then asked, “The media’s not here, right?”
The parent of one of the two students who spoke with Politico took exception to Chappelle using the N-word — as if students don’t encounter worse on a daily basis.
“As a parent, I have to say I have a real problem. … He was being dead serious and using the n-word on the record. What kind of judgment is the school showing to allow that?”
Chappelle’s spokesperson Carla Sims wasn’t impressed, telling Politico, “They are complaining that he talked and said the n-word. If anything, Dave is putting the school on the map.”
There was also little heard from those who supported Chappelle.
“During the conversation with students and staff, Chappelle specifically invited the voices of discontent to ask questions, however as a result, the supporters of Chappelle became the silent majority,” said Duke Ellington spokesperson Savannah Overton.
“Our principal was approached by several students after the assembly who were disappointed that they were not able to voice their support for Chappelle in this forum,” she added.
Duke Ellington School of the Arts announced earlier this month that they are naming their theater in Chappelle’s honor.
“On April 22, 2022, we will celebrate one of our most distinguished alumni, Dave Chappelle, by naming our theatre in his honor,” the school said in a statement. “This theatre naming was the desire of one of our founders, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who recognized Chappelle as an important thought leader of our time.”
“As envisioned, Chappelle has elevated the national and international profile of the school by giving witness to the many ways Ellington has improved the lives of its students and fellow alumni,” Duke Ellington school said, before commenting on Chappelle’s Netflix stand-up special.
Noting that the special “has sparked a national debate around race, gender, sexuality and ‘cancel culture,'” the school stressed that it “champions inclusivity, diversity, equity, and belonging, we care deeply about protecting the well-being and dignity of every member of our student body, faculty, and community.”
“We will lean into this moment as a community,” the statement added. “We have engaged in listening sessions with our students and have allowed space for diverse viewpoints. We are committed to fostering a community where every individual feels both heard and supported. Those conversations are ongoing. Additionally, using Chappelle’s latest works as the impetus, we have expanded our Social Studies curriculum to include content related to political activism, civic engagement, arts activism, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Our objective is to uplift conversations around artistic freedom and artistic responsibility.”
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