Darnella Frazier, 17, has been tapped as the recipient of the 2020 Benenson Courage Award from PEN America, a leading literary and human rights organization.
“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, author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All.
“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.”
Frazier documented the death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. In the video footage, former officer Derek Chauvin was seen pressing pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked protests across the country.
“With courage and clear-eyed resolve, Darnella bore witness to a critical truth at great personal and emotional cost—and our country is in her debt,” Jennifer Egan, author and president of PEN America’s Board of Trustees, said in the press release.
“We would all do well to emulate Darnella’s grit in standing up to those with a monopoly on force and violence as we push for a stronger democracy, a more equal society, and a more just world. Her truth-telling epitomizes the kind of brave action that PEN America exists to celebrate and defend.”
Frazier will receive the award at the 2020 PEN America Gala, this year being held virtually on December 8.