The world wouldn’t have known the severity of George Floyd’s arrest and death if it weren’t for the cell phone footage a high school senior shared on social media the moment it happened. For that act of courage, one of the most prestigious organizations honored her at a virtual gala on Tuesday (Dec. 8).
PEN America, a non-profit “literary and free expression” organization, awarded
the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award for documenting the heartbreaking event with remarkable grace and fortitude.
Director Spike Lee sang her praises as a presenter in his opening remarks during the virtual ceremony.
“I’m so proud of my sister. She documented the murder of George Floyd, our brother,” the Academy Award-winning screenwriter said in a recording from his balcony. “King Floyd. And that footage reverberated around this God’s earth, and people took to the streets all over this earth. Not just the United States of America, and it wasn’t just Black people either. Everybody took to the streets. My sister, I commend you, and you deserve this award.”
The video cuts to the college-bound student who is still taken aback by the whirlwind of her simple act of activism. “I would like to say thank you for honoring me with this PEN/Benenson Courage Award. I never would imagine out of my whole 17 years of living that this will 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. Thanks to Mr. Lee for presenting this, and I appreciate that. Thank you for the PEN/Benenson Courage Award, and this is the award.”
Gabrielle Union, Meryl Streep, Deray Mckesson, Anita Hill, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker offered words of gratitude following her acceptance speech.
On May 25, Frazier took her 9-year-old cousin to the store when she spotted four Minneapolis officers apprehending George Floyd from his vehicle. Instantly, she took out her cell phone and recorded what eventually became one of the most audacious acts of police brutality documented on social media.
The recording captured former officer Derek Chauvin kneeling his body weight on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes until he took his final breath. The other three officers stood by as bystanders yelled for an intervention.
Days later, Fraizer faced criticism for not getting involved during the arrest to prevent his death. Devastated, she responded in self-defense on a Facebook post.
“I’m doing it for clout ?? For attention?? What ?? To get paid ?? Now y’all just sound dumb and ignorant!! I don’t expect anyone who wasn’t placed in my position to understand why and how I feel the way that I do !! MIND YOU I am a minor ! 17 years old , of course I’m not about to fight off a cop I’m SCARED wtf.”
The video instantly sparked a nationwide protest throughout multiple cities lasting months after it debuted. Eventually, Chauvin was charged with murder while the other three officers are currently pointing fingers at each other in an effort to save themselves from a guilty verdict.
In other news, Time was able to name every finalist for their annual “Person of the Year” issue except George Floyd. But, good to know his work in the “racial justice movement” is finally being recognized. (That’s sarcasm, folks.)