Who is Darnella Frazier? Teenager who recorded George Floyd's death receives PEN America award for courage

Frazier, a high school senior, had documented Floyd's brutal death as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes


                            Who is Darnella Frazier? Teenager who recorded George Floyd's death receives PEN America award for courage
(PEN America/Getty Images)

A teenager from Minneapolis, who captured the viral video of George Floyd's arrest and eventual death, received a courage award last week at a virtual gala. 17-year-old Darnella Frazier was honored by PEN America, the literary and human rights organization, along with other activists and artists. The awardees also included former President Barack Obama. Frazier, a high school senior, had documented Floyd's brutal death as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes on May 25.

The teen's video went viral, sparking nationwide outrage against police brutality and systemic racism in the country. Because of the video and the widespread demonstrations, four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's brutal death were fired on May 26. The footage showed Floyd, an unarmed Black man, pleading with officers as one of them, Chauvin, knelt on his neck for over seven minutes. The 46-year-old, in the video recording of the incident, was consistently heard saying he could not breathe and eventually became unconscious.

All four officers — Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Alex Kueng, and Tou Thao — were later arrested in the case. According to the Hennepin County medical examiner's office, Floyd suffered cardiopulmonary arrest while he was being restrained by Chauvin. The 44-year-old, who was fired after widespread protests, has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. Chauvin was held at the Hennepin and Ramsey county jails before being transferred to the Oak Park Heights facility. 

Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Getty Images)

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel, in a statement, praised Frazier's "exceptional courage." She said: "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. 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 received the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award from 'Do the Right Thing' director Spike Lee. The teen is reportedly focused on her schooling at the moment and is looking forward to attending college, according to a statement issued by PEN America. 

The courage award's previous recipients include Anita Hill, activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Cameron Kasky, Samantha Fuentes, and Zion Kelly. Flint, Michigan contaminated water whistleblowers Lee-Anne Walters and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha have also been previous recipients of the award for courage. 

Frazier, after receiving the award, said: "I never would've imagined out of my whole 17 years of living that this'll 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." Frazier's attorney Seth Cobin told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in June that the teen was taking her 9-year-old cousin to nearby Cup Foods when she saw four officers taking out Floyd from his vehicle and that was the moment she pulled out her phone and started recording the incident. 

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