MINNEAPOLIS — A leading literary and human rights organization said Tuesday that it is bestowing its annual Courage Award to the Minneapolis teenager whose video of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police was viewed by millions and inspired global outrage.
Darnella Frazier will receive the Benenson Courage Award from PEN America during a virtual gala celebration on Dec. 8.
“With nothing more than a cellphone 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 announcing Frazier’s selection.
“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,” Nossel added. “Without Darnella’s presence of mind and readiness to risk her own safety and well-being, we may never have known the truth about George Floyd’s murder.”
On May 25, the 17-year-old Frazier documented the arrest of Floyd, who fell into unconsciousness as now-fired police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes.
The video quickly spread across social media and led to protests around the world. Chauvin, who is white, and three other fired officers are awaiting trial on various murder and manslaughter charges in connection with the Black man’s death.
Frazier has yet to speak publicly about her role in telling the story of Floyd’s death beyond what she told the Star Tribune the next day. “The world needed to see what I was seeing,” she said. “Stuff like this happens in silence too many times.”
In June, attorney Seth Cobin spoke for Frazier and said she wasn’t looking to be a hero but is “just a 17-year-old high school student, with a boyfriend and a job at the mall, who did the right thing. She’s the Rosa Parks of her generation.”
The New York-based PEN America announced late last month that former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was forced out of her job last year by the Trump administration, will join Frazier in receiving the Benenson Courage Award.
Yovanovitch was recalled from Kiev as unofficial Trump envoy Rudy Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Prior Courage Award honorees include Anita Hill, who testified during the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, who now sits on the Supreme Court; student gun violence activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Cameron Kasky, Samantha Fuentes and Zion Kelly; the Women’s March; Flint, Mich., contaminated water whistleblowers Lee-Anne Walters and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha; and the surviving staff of the French publication Charlie Hebdo, honored in the wake of the killings of 12 of their colleagues.
The 2020 PEN America Gala is being held virtually this year as the world copes with the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Others being honored by PEN in December include the author and musician Patti Smith and Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong.
©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)