During his acceptance speech at the Art For Life benefit Saturday (organized by Russell Simmons' Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation), Chappelle humbly reflected on the value of his craft. "I think it's important to be out now, but what's going on in the world isn't why I initially came back," he said, according to the Associated Press.
The comedian abruptly left Hollywood (and famously, a $50 million deal) behind in 2005 when he jetsetted to Africa during the production of the third season of his record-breaking Chappelle Show. The trip wasn't planned. He was in "hiding," in a sense and re-emerged eight years later to a significant amount of love and heckling. He continued to perform spot dates, nonetheless.
In the tenth year, he sold out back-to-back sets at Radio City Music Hall, featuring performances by some of his Block Party roster, like Erykah Badu, The Roots, and Kanye West, and the added "new" face of Nas to the bill. The first Black president, Barack Obama, in his second term by then.
"This is a very surprisingly emotionally charged time," Chappelle said, "so people like me, I think, are very relevant and neccessary in sorting through all of this information and emotional content."
He nodded to his arts education at Duke Ellington School of the Arts as a saving grace in his upbringing. "I can say honestly that I'm happy, that I can sit at home on a Tuesday night and watch Kay and Peele do my show and it doesn't hurt me."
Now that he is back, however, he feels a sense of responsibility. "The biggest enemy of an artist is apathy," he said. "A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a t-shirt and before I can wear that one, there's another kid [killed[ and I'm running out of closet space."
Word circulated earlier this year that Chappelle has a special on HBO soon, although the air date and title has yet to be announced.
The Art For Life benefit raises funds for arts in schools and other such programs. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay also received an award at the event.
Rewind! See Ava Duvernay: This Is Why I Rock in the Black Girls Rock! video below.
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