Dave Chappelle Gives Emmy to Ellington School, Gets Key to Washington, D.C.

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Ellington School CEO Tia Powell Harris, co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz, ninth grader Makael Exum, Dave Chappelle and Mayor Muriel Bowser pose with the auditorium crowd. Photo by Robert Devaney.

Dave Chappelle returned to his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts on 35th Street, remarking on its reconstruction and giving the cheering students advice Sept. 29.

Chappelle was there to be given the key to the City of Washington, D.C, by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who said it was a rare honor. In turn, the comedian, who earned an Emmy last week, bought the statuette on stage and donated it to the school and students.

Tia Powell Harris, Chief Executive Officer, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, introduced Bowser, who spoke of the 1991 graduate as a fervent defender of the disenfranchised, “doing it the Dave Chappelle way” and speaking up for Washington, D.C. — as he did during the Sept. 17 Emmy Awards show about D.C. public schools.

Accepting the key to the city, Chappelle then talked to the packed auditorium of students, telling them not to take things for granted. “$170 million is a lot to spend on your future,” he said of the rebuilt school, thanking the likes of its co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz. “Success is your choice. Your high school friends will be friends for life . . . I wanted to be a comedian. So, I knew I needed to learn acting. I used to mop the stage.”

Ellington School CEO Tia Powell Harris, co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz, ninth grader Makael Exum, Dave Chappelle and Mayor Muriel Bowser pose with the auditorium crowd. Photo by Robert Devaney.
A loud musical and dance performance opened the Dave Chappelle event. Photo by Robert Devaney.
Ellington School ninth grader Makael Exum, Dave Chappelle and Mayor Muriel Bowser pose with the auditorium crowd. Photo by Robert Devaney.
Comedian Dave Chappelle on the stage of Ellington School of Arts. Photo by Robert Devaney.
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