The teenage girl who recorded the video showing George Floyd dying in Minneapolis police custody in May will receive a prestigious courage award.
Darnella Frazier, dubbed a “quick-thinking and dauntless young woman” by PEN America, was announced Tuesday as a recipient of the organization’s PEN/Benenson Courage Award.
Her 10-minute video shows Floyd clinging to life and repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” as since-fired officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, while three other officers didn’t intervene..
All four officers have been charged in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.
“With nothing more than a cell phone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel
Nossel also lauded Darnella’s “remarkable steadiness” and “prescience of mind.”
Floyd’s death, along with killings of Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery, renewed the fight against racial injustice and sparked Black Lives Matter protests nationwide.
“With courage and clear-eyed resolve, Darnella bore witness to a critical truth at great personal and emotional cost — and our country is in her debt,” said Jennifer Egan, author and president of PEN America’s Board of Trustees. “We would all do well to emulate Darnella’s grit in standing up to those with a monopoly on force and violence as we push for a stronger democracy, a more equal society, and a more just world. Her truth-telling epitomizes the kind of brave action that PEN America exists to celebrate and defend.”
Darnella, now a 17-year-old high school senior, said she was being harassed online after posting the video on her Facebook page, McClatchy News reported.
Some people criticized Darnella for not intervening. She is heard in the video asking police many times to stop pinning Floyd.
“I don’t expect anyone who wasn’t placed in my position to understand why and how I feel the way that I do,” Frazier said days after Floyd’s death. “MIND YOU I am a minor! 17 years old, of course I’m not about to fight off a cop.”
She will receive PEN America’s award at this year’s PEN America Gala, which will be held virtually on Dec. 8.
Founded in 1922, PEN America “works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.”