Darnella Frazier thanked the organization during a virtual gala.
On Tuesday PEN America, a nonprofit “at the intersection of literature and human rights,” honored Minneapolis high school student Darnella Frazier for her bravery. Back in May, the 17-year-old Frazier recorded former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into George Floyd‘s neck for over eight minutes. After Floyd died in police custody, Frazier’s footage sparked protests around the world.
“With nothing more than a cell phone and sheer guts,” PEN CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement, “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.”
Frazier and a younger cousin were on their way to the store when they saw Floyd handcuffed on the ground. “I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this [would] be me,” she said. “It’s just a lot to take in, but I couldn’t say thank you enough for everything that’s been coming towards me.”
PEN America’s founding members included writers like Robert Frost and Eugene O’Neill. Nossel thanked Frazier for bearing witness.
“With remarkable steadiness,” Nossel continued, “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.”
Chauvin and the other three officers at the scene in May will face trial in March 2021. Chauvin faces charges of second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin posted $1 million bond in October.