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Teen who recorded Floyd death on phone to receive PEN award

A mural pays tribute to George Floyd outside Cup Foods in south Minneapolis. Photo: KSTP. A mural pays tribute to George Floyd outside Cup Foods in south Minneapolis.

The Associated Press
Updated: October 27, 2020 02:52 PM
Created: October 27, 2020 07:50 AM

The teenager who recorded the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May will be honored in December by PEN America, the literary and human rights organization.

Darnella Frazier will be presented the PEN/Benenson Courage Award.

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"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," PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement Tuesday.

The 17-year-old Frazier will share the Courage Award with Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was pushed out by the Trump administration.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, PEN had postponed its annual gala from May 19, six days before Floyd's death, to Dec. 8, and will host the event online.

"Darnella Frazier took an enormous amount of flak in the wake of releasing the video," Nossel told The Associated Press. "People were accusing her of being in it for the money, or for being famous, or were asking why she didn't intervene. And it was just left this way. We wanted to go back and recognize and elevate this singular act."

"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. 

"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," added Jennifer Egan, author and president of PEN America's Board of Trustees. "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."

Others being honored by PEN in December include the author and musician Patti Smith and Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong.


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