Controversial comedian Dave Chappelle turned down his former high school’s offer to name their new theater after him, in the wake of protests by current students.
Chappelle, 48, shocked the audience at the theater’s naming ceremony at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts on Monday, when instead of accepting the institution’s offer to make the building his namesake, it would instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
The “Half-Baked” star both donated and helped raise funds to build the new theater, but students protested after administrators offered to name the building after Chappelle, who graduated in 1991.
Their pushback came after Chappelle’s Netflix special, “The Closer,” enraged the LGBTQ community over jokes he made about transgender women.
“Now, I am not saying that to say trans women aren’t women, I am just saying that those p*****s that they got … you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not p***y, but it’s Beyond P***y or Impossible P***y,” he quipped at the time. “It tastes like p***y, but that’s not quite what it is, is it? That’s not blood. That’s beet juice.”
Students at his alma mater protested the building’s naming when they were told in November. “These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” Chappelle said according to reports.
“No matter what they say about ‘The Closer,’ it is still (one of the) most watched specials on Netflix,” he continued. “When you say I can’t say something, the more urgent is it 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 acknowledged that he has taken a lot of “cold shots” in Hollywood, but the student’s rejection “hurt him.” Despite their hostility, he doesn’t want his name on a building to hurt them.
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” Chappelle concluded.