World-renowned comedian Dave Chappelle turned down an offer to rename a building at his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in northwest Washington.
The building was instead named “The Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression,” which Chappelle supported, WTOP reported.
“I want that for myself, and I want it for every student that is educated at this school,” the comedian told WRC-TV (Channel 4) of the new name during an unveiling ceremony at the school Monday.
The renaming was planned for last fall but was postponed in the wake of backlash against Chappelle’s Netflix standup special “The Closer,” which angered many in the LGBTQ community because of his comments about transgender people.
“If [artistic expression] is threatened, the society at large is threatened,” Chappelle said, WRC reported. “If artists feel stifled, then everyone is stifled. I feel like artists have a responsibility to really be true to their art right now.”
Chappelle said he was comfortable with the building being named after someone else. However, school officials said late co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz specifically chose him for the honor.
The comedian said he didn’t request the school to name the building after him, but is open to having the school add his name to the theater in the future.