Dave Chappelle’s old high school cancels him: Fundraiser scrapped after students threatened walk-out in protest at his ‘anti-trans’ comments on Netflix special – just weeks after he pledged $100K
- Dave Chappelle graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC
- High school planned to rename its theater after comedian on November 23
- But students at the predominantly black school threatened a walkout
- School administrators responded by postponing the event to April 22
- Chappelle has come under fire for comments made on Netflix special The Closer
- Last month, hundreds attended a protest outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles
- Chappelle accused of comments that ‘incite violence against trans people’
- Netflix was criticized for refusing demands to add disclaimer or pull the special
Students at a Washington, DC high school threatened to walk out if administrators went ahead with a planned fundraiser featuring one of its most famous alumni, Dave Chappelle, who has been accused of making anti-transgender comments.
But the school pushed back against ‘cancel culture’ – rescheduling the ceremony for April 22.
The protest took place just weeks after Chappelle pledged to donate $100,000 to the arts school – one of the few in the country with a predominantly minority student body – that he has credited with ‘saving his life.’
Chappelle has also delivered the school’s commencement address and visited the campus with fellow A-list celebrities including Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker.
A planned fundraiser and ceremony renaming a high school theater after famous alumnus Dave Chappelle (above) was postponed after students at the Washington, DC institution threatened a walkout
The November 23 event was scheduled to be held at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the Georgetown section of the capital
Chappelle is a graduate of the school. He has also pledged to donate $100,000. Chappelle is seen above in this 2017 photo visiting the school’s campus
Last month, Chappelle sparked anger as protesters accused him of anti-transgender comments made during his Netflix special The Closer
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in Northwest DC, said it will postpone renaming its theater after Chappelle in order to engage with members of the school who raised concerns about the comedian’s latest Netflix comedy special.
The event, originally scheduled for November 23, has now been moved to April 22, the educational institution said in a statement on Friday.
Chappelle’s latest Netflix comedy special, The Closer, was criticized by some who saw it as a ridicule of transgender people.
Supporters of the comedian viewed it as a cry against cancel culture.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos had acknowledged Chappelle’s provocative language in The Closer but said earlier that it did not cross the line into inciting violence.
‘Dave is an artist and activist and applauds the school taking time to develop creative and critical thinkers,’ Carla Sims, a representative for Chappelle, told The Washington Post on Friday.
‘He supports the school and any effort to contribute to open conversations vs. cancellations.’
In its statement, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts described Chappelle as its ‘most distinguished alumni’ and ‘an important thought leader,’ adding the comedian has personally donated or raised millions of dollars to address the school’s under-funding.
‘The Closer – the most watched comedy special in Netflix’s history, which has garnered a 96% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes – has sparked a national debate around race, gender, sexuality and “cancel culture”,’ the school said.
‘We also believe 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,’ it added.
The institution said it recognized not everyone will accept or welcome an artist’s point of view, but added it rejected the notion that a ‘cancel culture’ is healthy or constructive.
The school said that it would expand its social studies curricula ‘to include content related to political activism, civic engagement, arts activism, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.’
Last month, dozens of people protested near the streaming company’s headquarters over Chappelle’s latest Netflix special.
On October 5, Chappelle appeared at Angelika Pop-Up theater in the Union Market section of the capital.
Hours before The Closer dropped on Netflix, Chappelle urged donors to contribute funds to his alma mater, the Post reported.
Last month, dozens of people protested near the streaming company’s headquarters over Chappelle’s latest Netflix special
‘I’m happy that you’re interested in the special,’ Chappelle told donors at the theater just before the special was screened.
‘I’m happier that you’re interested in Ellington.’
Chappelle, who has won several Grammy and Emmy Awards, said that the school’s decision to rename its theater after him was ‘the most significant honor of my life.’
‘Ive been honored many ways, many times,’ Chappelle told the audience.
‘This means the most.’
He added: ‘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?’
‘But I understand it because sometimes when you love things, they love you back,’ Chappelle said.
‘And I loved that school.’
Sandi Logan, the school principal, said the feeling was mutual.
‘Every time we ask him to do something, he’s always done it,’ she said.
Ellington called on Chappelle to help raise up to $1.5million to help pay teachers’ salaries.
Chappelle pledged $100,000 on his own behalf.
‘The Ellington School saved my life,’ he said.
When he mentioned his own planned contribution, he joked: ‘That doesn’t mean I’m doing to do it.’
At the height of the controversy over The Closer, Chappelle said last month that he was willing to sit down with Netflix employees who walked out to protest his comments about the transgender community.
Netflix employees who walked out on October 20 in protest of Chappelle’s special and its anti-transgender comments were joined by allies who chanted ‘Trans lives matter,’ getting pushback from counterprotesters who also showed up.
A pre-noon rally at a Netflix office-studio complex drew about 100 people, most on the side of an estimated 30 workers at the streaming giant that joined in afterward. Some were willing to identify themselves as Netflix employees, but all declined to provide their names.
Joey Soloway, creator of the groundbreaking Emmy-winning comedy Transparent, was among the speakers at the rally.
At the height of the controversy over The Closer, Chappelle said last month that he was willing to sit down with Netflix employees who walked out to protest his comments about the transgender community
Chappelle’s decision to share ‘his outrage as comedic humiliation in front of thousands of people, and then broadcasting it to hundreds of millions of people is infinitely amplified gender violence,’ they said.
‘I want trans representation on the Netflix board, this (expletive) week,’ the writer-director said.
Ashlee Marie Preston, an activist and the event’s organizer, addressed the rally and spoke to The Associated Press afterward.
She said that calling out Chappelle for his remarks wasn’t enough.
‘It was important to shift the focus to the people that sign the checks, because Dave Chappelle doesn’t sign checks, Netflix does,’ Preston said.
‘If we have companies like Netflix who aren’t listening to their employees, who are forcing their employees to participate in their own oppression, that’s unacceptable.’
‘We’re here to keep people accountable. We’re not going anywhere,’ she said, adding that efforts are underway to start a dialogue with Netflix executives.
There were a few moments of shoving and pushing among the competing demonstrators, but the conflict was mostly limited to a war of words.
Leia Figueroa, a student from Los Angeles, doesn’t work at Netflix but said they wanted to back the walkout.
While the streaming service offers positive fare for the LGBTQ community, they said, it’s having it both ways by also offering a show like Chappelle’s that includes disparaging comments about trans women.
If Netflix wants to be ‘an apolitical platform then they should be that,’ Figueroa said.
‘But they’re saying things like “Black lives matter” and “We don’t stand for transphobia.”
‘If you say things like that, then you have to be vetting all of your content to reflect your values.’
As they spoke, a protestor shouted, ‘We like jokes.’
‘I like funny jokes, and transphobia is not a joke,’ Figueroa replied.
Belissa Cohen, a former journalist, said she was on hand to ‘support Netflix’s decision not to pull’ the special.
‘We want to show that there isn’t unanimous support about transgender ideology when it comes to Netflix viewers,’ Cohen said.
She was among about a dozen people who carried placards reading ‘Free speech is a right’ and ‘Truth is not transphobic.’
Opposite them were those carrying signs that included ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ and ‘Transphobia is not Funny.’
Elliot Page, who stars in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and is transgender, tweeted that he stands with the trans, nonbinary and people of color working at Netflix who are ‘fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace.’
Team Trans(asterisk), which identifies itself as supporting ‘trans people working at Netflix trying to build a better world for our community,’ posted what it called a list of ‘asks’ being made of Netflix by trans and nonbinary workers and allies at the company.
They are calling on the company to ‘repair’ its relationships with staff and the audience with changes involving the hiring of trans executives and increased spending on trans and nonbinary creators and projects.
‘Harm reduction’ is another demand, which according to the list includes acknowledgment of what it called Netflix’s ‘responsibility for this harm from transphobic content, and in particular harm to the Black trans community.’
Chappelle, who has won several Grammy and Emmy Awards, said that the school’s decision to rename its theater after him was ‘the most significant honor of my life’
It also called for disclaimers to flag content that includes ‘transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia’ and hate speech.
In a statement, the media watchdog group GLAAD said it salutes the Netflix’s employees, allies and LGBTQ and black advocates ‘calling for accountability and change within Netflix and in the entertainment industry as a whole.’
The employees who walked out uniformly referred reporters to the GLAAD statement.
Netflix ran into a buzz-saw of criticism not only with the special but in how internal memos responded to employees’ concerns, including Sarandos’ assertion that ‘content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.’
Sarandos also wrote that Netflix doesn’t allow titles that are ‘designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.’
In interviews, Sarandos said he failed to recognize that ‘a group of our employees was really hurting,’ as he told The Wall Street Journal, and that his comment about the effect of TV on viewers was an oversimplification.
Terra Field, who identifies herself on Twitter as a senior software engineer at Netflix and as trans, posted tweets critical of Chappelle’s special immediately after it aired and the comments were widely shared.
In her posts, Field said the comic was being criticized not because his remarks are offensive but for the harm they do to the trans community, especially black women.
Field included a list of trans and nonbinary men and women of color who she said had been killed, adding in each case that the victim ‘is not offended.’
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