The teen who pulled out her phone and started recording when she watched George Floyd being held to the ground by a Minneapolis cop received a special citation from the Pulitzer Prizes on Friday for her video, which helped to spawn a global campaign against racial injustice.
The Pulitzer Prizes cited Darnella Frazier "for courageously documenting the death of George Floyd, a video that sparked worldwide protests against police brutality, underlining the important role of people in journalists' fight for truth and justice," according to the announcement.
According to her publicist, Frazier was not granting interviews to the media on Friday.
On May 25, 2020, Frazier was 17 years old when she videotaped Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, being arrested and killed. She testified at former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial that she was walking to a corner grocery store with her then-9-year-old cousin to grab snacks when she witnessed a man pinned to the pavement, "terrified, fearful, screaming for his life."
She explained that she didn't want her cousin to see what was going on, so she escorted the girl into the store before returning to the sidewalk and beginning to record since "it wasn't right." He was in pain. He was in excruciating pain.” She continued to video while feeling threatened as Chauvin ignored crowd cries and drew his Mace while knelt on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
Floyd's video, in which he repeatedly says he can't breathe before collapsing, was shared on Facebook hours after it was recorded, causing uproar in Minneapolis and beyond. In Chauvin's trial, it was also a key piece of evidence. Chauvin was found guilty in April of unintended second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. On June 25, he will be sentenced. The Minneapolis Star Tribune earned the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for its coverage of Floyd's murder and its aftermath, the Pulitzer Board declared on Friday.
Frazier should win a Pulitzer for her video, according to Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, who wrote a column for Nieman Lab last month. On Friday, Clark, a five-time Pulitzer jury member, told The Associated Press that Frazier was like the numerous journalists and artists who have won Pulitzer Prizes for advocating for tolerance, equality, and social justice.
“There she was, at 17, witnessing an injustice, and she stood there in the face of threats and captured that video,” he said, adding, “It would be difficult to select a 10-minute video that had as profound an impact as this young woman's video did, even from the work of professional journalists over recent years or decades.”
According to Clark, Frazier's video was "globe shaking," spoke truth to power, and offered a voice to the voiceless.
The Pulitzer Board awarding civilians who record major events is unusual, but not unique; the famous photo of a firefighter cradling a newborn after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was snapped by Charles Porter IV, a bank credit officer, and released by the Associated Press.
According to Clark, Frazier's unique recognition rewards extraordinary work that falls outside of specified prize categories. Frazier joins Ida B. Wells, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and the crew of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, on a list that includes Ida B. Wells, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and the crew of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, for their response to a 2018 shooting in their newsroom.
Last year, PEN America, a literary and human rights group, presented Frazier with the PEN/Benenson Courage Award.
“With nothing more than a cellphone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, igniting a courageous movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and police violence,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel stated at the time.
Frazier told jurors during Chauvin's trial that she sometimes thinks she could have done more to help Floyd. She claimed she thinks about “how that might have been one of them” when she looks at her father and other Black guys in her life.
“There have been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, for not physically connecting and not saving his life,” she stated, adding of Chauvin, “But it's not what I should've done, it's what he should've done.”
The three other policemen involved in Floyd's arrest will stand trial next year on charges of aiding and abetting. Floyd's civil rights had been violated by all four cops.