Spike Lee presented the award to Frazier. “It is my honor and my pleasure to present the PEN/Benenson Courage Award to sister Darnella Frazier,” he said. “I am so proud of my sister. She documented the murder of George Floyd, our brother. And that footage reverberated around God’s earth and people took to the streets all over this earth — not just United Stares of America. It wasn’t just Black people either, everybody took to the streets. My sister I commend you and you deserve this award.”
“I never would’ve imagined out of my 17 years of living that this would be me,” Frazier said upon receiving the awards. “It’s just a lot to take in but I couldn’t say thank you enough for everything’s thats been coming towards me.”
Gabrielle Union, Meryl Streep, and activist Deray McKesson, and others also sent video messages thanking Frazier. In May, the teen pulled out her cell phone and recorded as former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin jammed his knee in Floyd’s neck while he pleaded about not being able to breathe. Floyd was pronounced dead moments later.
The non-profit organization — which stands for Poets, Essayists, Novelists — works to protect freedom of expression.
“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, in October. “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.”
Watch Frazier receive her award below.