Dave Chappelle was the king of not giving a fuck. Not in a way that was careless - it was actually the opposite. It was evident that he was FULL of Black pride, due to the fact that he carefully articulated the best in our creativity: incredibly funny commentary on what it means to be Black in this country without losing your soul. With television, he used his Blackness as a vehicle for change but for the sake of creativity, he used it as a statement of purpose. The Chapelle Show, the sketch comedy show that he dreamed up and then executed, was his value proposition.
In Living Color, Arsenio Hall and Soul Train were no longer with us. Gems like Moesha, Martin, Living Single, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In The House, A Different World, had come in, made some noise and left with the '90s. Our representation in TV had become a little bland.
As we entered into the 2000s, the land had been cleared for Dave Chappelle to set up shop. It didn't matter if he was making fun of the KKK or trading America's favorite Black athletes in a racial draft, he always owned in own narrative. During a time where Hurricane Katrina devastated our families, Kanye West told the world that George Bush didn't care about Black people, and we were dealing with the war in Iraq, Dave Chappelle never wavered in sharing his perspective. He used the art of comedy to shed light on what it was like to be Black in America at that time. It wasn't always funny or easy to digest but he fed the world our truth one episode at a time.
Even when he walked away from the show, he always made it known that he couldn't be bought. His blackness was not up for sale and either he would own his work or the network would own him.
Luckily for us, he choose the first option. That reverence for being true to who he was, for never backing down from his position, for creating the type of work that reflected our people, was what allowed him to connect with Black history, past and present, and ultimately our futures.
Watch his interview with Maya Angelou below.