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Dave Chappelle’s Alma Mater Postpones Fundraiser with the Comedian over Student Backlash

Comedian Dave Chappelle speaks to a reporter as he arrives for the Mark Twain Prize for Humor honoring Eddie Murphy at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., October 18, 2015. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A high school in Washington, D.C., has postponed a planned fundraiser with Dave Chappelle after students threatened to stage a walkout because they were uncomfortable with remarks he made about transgender people in his recent Netflix special, according to a new report.

In response to student uproar, Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown — which is Chappelle’s alma mater — first quietly canceled the November 23 fundraiser to raise funds for a new theater named after the comedian, according to Politico Playbook.

After the newsletter first broke the news, the school sent out an email to patrons saying they had instead decided to postpone the event until April 22.

“We recognize that not everyone will accept or welcome a particular artists’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, according to the newsletter.

The event was up in the air after two students told the newsletter that their peers had a heated debated with faculty after they were told they would have to help put together an exhibition to honor the comedian on the same day as the fundraiser.

The students said they were uncomfortable supporting Chappelle because many of their classmates identify as LGBTQ+. In his new Netflix special, The Closer, the comedian compares being transgender to wearing blackface, says “gender is a fact” and says that he’s a member of “team TERF,” meaning “trans-exclusionary radical feminists.”

Despite invitations for the event having already been sent to multiple patrons, the school first reportedly elected to cancel the fundraiser, shirking Chappelle, who has given back to his alma mater in a number of way over the years: he donated $100,000 to the school, gave it one of his Emmy awards in 2017, delivered a commencement address, held a master class for students and regularly visited campus with other notable celebrities, including Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker, the report says. 

Meanwhile, amid the uproar last month Chappelle said he is “not bending to anybody’s demands.”

To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience,” Chappelle said while performing last month. “But you will not summon me.

He added that those in the transgender community who meet with him must watch his special from “beginning to end” and he must choose the time and place of the meeting. He added that those who choose to meet him must admit that Hannah Gadsby, a left-wing lesbian who makes her politics a part of her act, is “not funny.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect new reporting by Politico Playbook that the event has now been postponed, rather than canceled. 

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