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Teen who documented George Floyd’s tragic death will receive courage award

“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,” said literary and human rights organization PEN.

George Floyd PEN America

The teenager who filmed George Floyd’s tragic killing will be rewarded for her bravery. PEN America — a literary and human rights organization — will honor 17-year-old Darnella Frazier with a presentation of the PEN/Benenson Courage Award.

“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,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement Tuesday (Oct. 27).

“With remarkable steadiness, Darnella carried out the expressive act of bearing witness, and allowing hundreds of millions around the world to see what she saw,” she continued. “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. We are proud to recognize her exceptional courage with this award.”

Frazier’s video captured Floyd as Derek Chauvin suffocated him with a knee to his neck and ignored pleas that he was unable to breathe. The footage went viral, heightening calls for social justice and racial equality throughout the nation, but it also resulted in questions about the teen’s intention to release the video.

“I’m doing it for clout?? For attention?? What?? To get paid?? Now y’all just sound dumb and ignorant!!” Frazier wrote in a Facebook post following the criticism. “I don’t expect anyone who wasn’t placed in my position to understand why and how I feel the way that I do!! MIND YOU, I am a minor!...Of course, I’m not about to fight off a cop. I’m SCARED. Wtf.”

“If it wasn’t for me, 4 cops would’ve still had their jobs, causing other problems,” she continued. “My video went worldwide for everyone to see and know!! His family was reached out too! The police most definitely would’ve swept it under the rug with a cover up story. Instead of bashing me, THANK ME! Because that could’ve been one of your loved ones, and you would want to see the truth as well.”

PEN acknowledged the “flak” Frazier got for releasing the video and expressed its desire “to go back and recognize and elevate this singular act.” She will be presented with her award during a virtual gala on Dec. 8. According to her family’s PR specialist Kelley Bass Jackson, she is “humbled to receive this award...and she’s grateful for PEN America for thinking of her.”

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