A teen has been rewarded with the PEN America award for courage after she recorded the arrest of George Floyd.
Darnella Frazier, a Minneapolis high school senior, was on the scene in May when George Floyd, 46, was arrested by officers after he was accused of using a fake $20 bill.
The 17-year-old managed to film the incident in which viewers can seen Floyd pinned to the ground, while former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. All the while, the man was trying to say he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd then fell unconscious and died following his arrest.
Frazier shared the footage online and it has since been seen by millions across the globe. Worldwide protests for the Black Lives Matter movement began due to the unjust treatment of Floyd and this led to the arrest of Chauvin and the dismissal of the three other officers who had been involved.
The teenager received her reward at a virtual gala which was hosted by the literacy and human rights organisation PEN America last week.
Frazier was just one of many people honoured at the event, as it also included other activists, artists and even former president Barack Obama.
The young woman was described as “quick-thinking and dauntless” by PEN America. Meanwhile, CEO Suzanne Nossel also commended the teen’s “exceptional courage”.
Nossel wrote a statement in regards to the award, which read: “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.
“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. 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.”
The 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award was presented by director Spike Lee. The award has previously been given to lawyer Anita Hill, the contaminated water whistleblowers Lee-Anne Walters and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Flint, Michigan.
The teen said she “never would’ve imagined” that in her life she would win such an award. When speaking to NBC News, she commented: “It’s just a lot to take in, but I couldn’t say thank you enough for everything that’s been coming towards me.”
President of PEN America’s Board of Trustee, Jennifer Egan, said that the country is in Frazier’s “debt” due to her bearing witness “to a critical truth at great personal and emotional cost”.
Reportedly, the teen had been taking her nine-year-old cousin to Cup Foods when she saw the four police officers taking Floyd from his vehicle.