Stand-up comedian Kenny DeForest shared a poignant story about Dave Chappelle turning a surprise appearance at a comedy show in Brooklyn into a lesson on race in America in 2015. Jimmy Kimmel shared the thread, telling his followers the story is "well worth your time." The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host shared the story amid the protests of George Floyd's death.
On Wednesday, DeForest chose to finally share what happened during Comedy at the Knitting Factory on Jan. 19, 2015. At the time, Chappelle was in New York to show support Kevin Hart on Saturday Night Live and stopped by the club. Rather than perform a traditional set, Chappelle just asked the crowd to shout out news topics for him to riff on, according to DeForest. Since this was just after a grand jury chose not to indict the police officers responsible for Eric Garner's death, one person yelled out "police brutality!"
this thread is well worth your time https://t.co/Pk6H3byoGw— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) June 4, 2020
Chappelle started talking about Garner and noted how body cameras on police officers were not stopping police brutality. At this point, a white girl interrupted him, shouting "Live's hard, sorry 'bout it!" Chappelle asked her to repeat it, which she did. At this point, the mood completely changed. Chappelle started "educating the crowd on the history of black people and the police," DeForest wrote. "He talked about slave patrols and Rodney King and Watts and Emmett Till and Black Wall Street. He talked about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and he talked about John Crawford III."
Chappelle then told a story about how he was pulled over one night in rural Ohio, where he lives. The police officer told Chappelle he recognized the comedian but still wanted to see his license and registration. Chappelle was allowed to leave with a warning, and Chappelle later learned the officer was one of the two who shot Crawford. "I shouldn't have to be Dave Chappelle to survive police encounters," was Chappelle's takeaway.
"He goes on to explain that one of his best friends is South African. He said 'I asked him what it was like in South Africa right before apartheid ended and he said it was chaos in the streets. There were riots & car bombs etc, but the amount of people caring hit critical mass... and there was nothing they could do to stop it. The people had momentum and apartheid ended. Critical mass. That's what we have to hit. Once enough of you care, there will be nothing they can do to stop the change,'" DeForest recalled. "It was incredibly powerful. The crowd was somber and silent."
After the show, the white woman apologized to Chappelle and thanked him for educating her. Chappelle said she was "ok" and thanked her for listening to him. "That's your role," he said. "And now you know. Now you're part of that critical mass we talked about and next time you hear a friend say some ignorant s— like you said, it's your job to correct them and share with them what you learned tonight. THEN, you're no longer part of the problem, you're part of the solution." The woman cried and Chappelle agreed to take a picture with her.
"He changed everyone in that room that night. 200+ people became part of the solution if they weren't already. Even a privileged girl in a privileged hat with a privileged mindset. Point is, it doesn't matter what you thought before. You can always change," DeForest wrote. "And you can always become a part of the critical mass trying to push this shit forward. All you have to do is care and allow that care to become education and action."
Crawford was a 22-year-old black man shot and killed at a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio because he was holding a BB gun. A customer called 911, claiming Crawford was pointing the gun at people in the store. However, surveillance footage showed Crawford never did that, and he was just holding the gun while talking on the phone. When police arrived, one officer fired two shots at Crawford, and he later died from his injuries. A grand jury did not indict the two officers involved. Beavercreek announced a $1.7 million settlement to Crawford's family just last month.