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The young woman who used her cell phone to film George Floyd’s arrest and murder in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, was honored with a Pulitzer Special Citations award, according to the announcement on June 12, 2021.
Darnella Frazier was only 17 when she videotaped Floyd’s life leave his body. On the one-year anniversary of his death, she wrote a tear-inducing post on Facebook. The young woman described the dramatic life changes she experienced due to his murder and her decision to document the event.
Frazier won the Pulitzer because it was her filming Floyd dying at the hands of Derek Chauvin that informed the world of what happened. Before her video was released, the only news came from a police bulletin titled, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Investigation.”
In fewer than 200 words, the statement indicated a suspect physically resisted officers, and once in compliance, they “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” Then, the officers called for an ambulance to transport the suspect to the local hospital, where he died.
Her video sparked an international movement to protest racial injustice. The Pulitzer Prizes website reads Frazier was cited “for courageously recording the murder of Geroge Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality, around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest and justice.”
Frazier wrote: “Although this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a Black man get killed at that hands of the police, this was the first time I witnessed it in front of me.” She added that she did not know him but knew his life mattered.
She is proud that her video and testimony helped convict Floyd’s killer — they “put his murderer away and off the streets.”
People have labeled the Pulitzer winner as a hero — she dismissed the notion saying she was in the right place at the right time. But, on the other hand, some might say she was exactly where she was supposed to be doing exactly as she should — document Floyd pleading for his life, crying out for his mama, telling officers he could not breathe, then drawing his last breath as his body grew limp.
Frazier joins many notable Pulitzer Special Citation recipients; Ida B. Wells, 2020, “for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching;” the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, 2019, “for their courageous response to the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history in their newsroom on June 28, 2018;” and Aretha Franklin, 2019, “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.” The Pulitzer website offers a comprehensive list of award recipients through the years.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune was presented with breaking news reporting Pulitzer award for its coverage of Floyd’s murder and its aftermath, reports Fox 4 News.
In addition to the Pulitzer Citation, she was presented with the PEN/Benenson Courage Award last year. PEN America is a nonprofit organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression in the United States and worldwide through the advancement of literature and human rights.
When she was given the award, PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said:
With nothing more than a cellphone 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.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Engadget: Pulitzer Prize awards special citation to teen who filmed George Floyd’s murder; by I. Bonifacic
The Pulitzer Prizes: Special Citations and Awards 2021 Darnella Frazier
FOX 4: Teen who recorded George Floyd’s arrest, death wins Pulitzer Prize nod
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Thomas Hawk’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License