Dave Chappelle is asking for donations to his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, to determine whether or not one of its theaters will be renamed in his honor.
Shortly before his latest comedy special, “The Closer,” debuted on Netflix, the Washington, D.C. high school announced the renaming plan. But following weeks of backlash for the comedian’s jokes targeting transgender women and the LGBTQ+ community, his alma mater delayed the ceremony until April 2022.
Chappelle responded to the news via Instagram on Saturday night with his own proposed plan.
“Talk is cheap (Unless I do it),” he wrote. “The Duke Ellington school is a glorious institution. Within those walls I found a context to explore my creativity seriously. Duke Ellington, in large part, prepared me to undertake this noble and difficult profession. It was a fine institution before any of its current occupants got there. God willing, it will be a fine institution long after their tenure is done. My only intent is to insure Duke Ellington the opportunity to train its artists unfettered.”
Chappelle said he considers the request to rename the theater after him “a great honor,” although it was “not my idea, aim or desire.”
He then said that while he intends “to honor that request” come April, he will leave it up to the public to decide by donating to the school.
“If you object to my receiving this honor, I urge you to donate to the school noting your objection,” he explained. “If you are in favor of the theater being named ‘Chappelle’, I urge you to donate to the school, noting your approval.”
He continued, “Whichever opinion donates the highest collective dollar amount, wins. If by April, those against the ‘Chappelle’ theater exceed the donations of those who are neutral or in favor of the theater being named ‘Chappelle’, I will gladly steal aside. If not, I will happily attend the naming ceremony. And if you don’t care enough to donate… please shut the f–k up, forever.”
Earlier in the month, the school said it planned on using the controversy as a “teachable moment.” Duke Ellington’s principal Sandi Logan spoke to the Washington Post about its plans to expand the school’s social studies curriculum and meet with student leaders representing the school’s LGBTQ+ community.
“Dave is an artist and activist and applauds the school taking time to develop creative and critical thinkers,” Chappelle representative Carla Sims wrote in an email to the Post. “He supports the school and any effort to contribute to open conversations vs. cancellations.”
Students weren’t the only ones voicing their concerns in the aftermath of the controversy. Netflix employees and allies participated in virtual and in-person protests at the streaming company’s offices in Los Angeles. In late October, two employees filed labor complaints alleging that Netflix retaliated against them for criticizing the special.
Read Chappelle’s full statement on Instagram here. (Be sure to scroll right.)