Dave Chappelle’s school fundraiser delayed amid walkout

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Dave Chappelle’s school fundraiser delayed amid walkout

Dave Chappelle’s Washington, DC, high school is delaying a fundraiser event that the funnyman was supposed to attend after students threatened to walkout over the controversial special that mocked transgender people.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts initially said they would cancel the Nov. 23 fundraiser due to the student backlash, Politico reported, but after media scrutiny, the school said they would instead delay the event until April 22.

The fundraiser was meant to raise money for a new theater that would be named after the comedian.

“We recognize that not everyone will accept or welcome a particular artist’s point of view, product or craft, but reject the notion that a ‘cancel culture’ is a healthy or constructive means to teach our students how society should balance creative freedom with protecting the right and dignity of all of its members,” the school said in a statement to Politico.

The school acknowledged that Chappelle has helped raise millions of dollars for the school, and said it plans to use the controversy as a “teachable moment,” the report said.

Duke Ellington School for the Arts.
Dave Chappelle has raised millions of dollars for the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, and the school said it plans to use the controversy as a “teachable moment.”
Robert Knopes/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Chappelle had donated $100,000 to the school and gave them one of his Emmy awards, according to Deadline. He also held a masterclass for students in 2017, which also featured actors Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker.

“We’ve been working on a way to make sure the students understand what’s in the special,” Carla Sims, a spokesperson for Chappelle, told Politico in explaining the delay of the event.

In preparation for the fundraiser, the school had at one point asked students to create a Chappelle-related exhibition, sparking a heated debate with faculty over whether it was appropriate for Chappelle to attend, according to Politico.

Transgender employees and allies stage a walkout at Netflix.
Transgender employees and allies at Netflix staged a walkout over Dave Chapelle’s comedy special.
Ted Soqui/Sipa USA

Chappelle stoked controversy last month with the release of his latest Netflix special, “The Closer,” much of which was dedicated to jokes about the transgender community.

In the show, Chappelle declared “gender is a fact” and identified himself as a “TERF,” or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” sparking immediate backlash, including from Netflix employees who walked off the job.

The show, Chappelle’s sixth and final leg of a big-bucks deal with Netflix, was quickly blasted as “transphobic” by critics.

Dave Chappelle.
In the special, Dave Chappelle declared “gender is a fact” and identified himself as a “TERF.”
Steven Ferdman/AFP via Getty Images

Last month, Netflix suspended a trans senior software engineer, Terra Field, who slammed Chappelle for his humor about trans people in a viral Twitter thread.

The company later said Field was suspended not for the tweets but instead for barging in on an executives-only meeting, along with two others.

Field has since been reinstated “after finding there was no ill-intent” in her attendance, she posted.

Meanwhile, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has stuck by the company’s decision to host the show — but admitted later that he “screwed up” in the way he communicated the decision to company staff.

In emails to Netflix staff last month amid the backlash, Sarandos, who’s also the company’s chief content officer, said the company would not take down the show.

“What I should have led with in those emails was humanity,” Sarandos told the Wall Street Journal. “I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting.”

“We have articulated to our employees that there are going to be things you don’t like,” Sarandos said.

“There are going to be things that you might feel are harmful. But we are trying to entertain a world with varying tastes and varying sensibilities and various beliefs, and I think this special was consistent with that,” he added.

Dave Chappelle.
The fundraiser was meant to raise money for a new theater that would be named after Dave Chappelle.
Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Standup comedy is “designed to stir up emotions,” he said, adding that “sometimes inclusion and artistic expression bump into each other.”

Part of the comedy special featured Chappelle’s recounting of his friendship with late trans comedian Daphne Dorman, whose family described Chappelle as an “LGBTQ ally.”

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