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Dave Chappelle & Maya Angelou Debate Usage of the N-Word




Some people say there is a communication gap between icons of the new and old school. Director Joe Berlinger and Sundance TV tests this theory with their hit series, Iconoclast. 

The show pairs unlikely icons to engage in conversations that promote bridging ideas, gender and generations. One of the most recent episodes featured comedian Dave Chappelle and the late great author Dr. Maya Angelou.

The episode starts with Chappelle talking about what frightens him about meeting Angelou. The reality produced series introduces Chappelle’s background and career as a 14 year old stand-up comic. The Emmy Award nominee talks about his life before stardom and his reasons for walking away from a 50 million dollar contract with Comedy Central.

Angelou discusses her rich history of writing, reading and breaking barriers. The “phenomenal woman” speaks candidly about being raped as a child, dealing with the death of her rapist, and living as a mute for seven years. She shares some of the conversations she had with Civil Rights activists like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcom X.

The conversation gets really interesting when the icons debate about the usage of the  N-word. “If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone or you’re too sick to be angry,” Angelou says in reference to the word. After this meeting, the two icons were able to gain perspective of past and present experiences. Angelou says, “He is so intelligent, but he doesn’t want people to know,” in reference to the comedian.

Angelou died just weeks after the airing of the episode.  Her words, work and example will remain relevant to us all for years to come. Hopefully the next generation of icons like Dave Chappelle will preserve her legacy.

Watch the episode here:

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