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Teenager who recorded George Floyd's death wins courage award

It was the footage of Floyd's killing that sparked protests across America and led to the officers being fired and charged.

Teenager who recorded George Floyd's death wins courage award
Image source: Twitter/PENamerica

Trigger warning: Race-motivated violence, police brutality

Darnella Frazier, 17, was at hand when Minneapolis cops overpowered George Floyd and then-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, killing him. Frazier immediately whipped out her phone and started recording the incident while still pleading with the cops to ease off on Floyd as he visibly struggled to breathe. Too many African-Americans had been killed at the hands of cops and not been convicted for the lack of evidence. It was Darnella Frazier's video that changed the narrative around Floyd's death after Minneapolis Police Department had initially refused to mention the circumstance under which he had died. On Tuesday, Darnella Frazier was honored with the PEN America award for courage for recording the footage that sparked protests across America, reported Atlanta Black Star. 


It was director Spike Lee who handed the Courage Award to the 17-year-old. The BlacKkKlansman director praised the teenager for capturing the footage and pointed out she had faced a huge backlash for sharing the video. “My sister, I commend you and you deserve this award,” said Spike Lee. The literary and human rights organization PEN America honored activists, artists, and leaders in a virtual gala on Tuesday. “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 in a statement. “Without Darnella’s presence of mind and readiness to risk her own safety and wellbeing, we may never have known the truth about George Floyd’s murder.”


Frazier had taken her 9-year-old cousin to a store when she encountered the police overpowering Floyd. As a Black person who had heard of and potentially seen countless instances of police brutality, Frazier knew it was important to document the scene unfolding before her eyes. She then shared the video online and the cops' inhumanity and utter disregard for life was there for all to see. All four officers involved in George Floyd's killing were fired, with Derek Chauvin, the cop who kneeled on the Black man's neck, facing manslaughter and murder charges. “I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this will be me. It’s just a lot to take in, but I couldn’t say thank you enough for everything that’s been coming towards me,” said Frazier after being honored. Frazier now stands alongside activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Flint, Michigan water contamination whistleblowers who were all recognized with the Courage Award.


According to TMZ, Frazier had sought therapy for trauma in the aftermath of Floyd’s death after facing backlash for sharing the video. Her family also had to relocate out of the neighborhood. The video by the 17-year-old helped charge the concerned police officers and brought the spotlight on police brutality and structural racism. "The image that most of us have of George Floyd is the horrible video that we've seen," said Floyd family lawyer Chris Stewart, according to Al Jazeera. "It's not just that someone passes and people are angry in the streets," he said. "It affects people's actual lives and their futures. A father was taken. A brother and sister lost another brother." 

Trigger warning: This video contains distressing images



Floyd's partner, Roxie Washington, spoke of the hurt. “Gianna doesn’t have a father. He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle,” said Washington about Floyd's daughter before adding, “He loved her, he loved her so much. I’m here for my baby. I’m here for George because I want justice for him, and I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good.”

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