Darnella Frazier, the teenager whose video of George Floyd’s murder went viral, fueling massive protests against police brutality around the world last year, has been awarded an honorary Pulitzer Prize.
In an announcement Friday afternoon, the Pulitzer Prize board commended Frazier “for courageously recording the murder of George Floyd,” highlighting “the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quests for truth and justice.”
Frazier was just 17 years old on May 25, 2020, when she pulled out her cellphone to record Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.
In the words of George’s brother Philonise, the video “changed the world.”
“She was the one who recorded a motion cinema picture that set the world on fire,” he said just over a year later, after the video served as a key piece of evidence in Chauvin’s trial and conviction.
Frazier would go on to testify in Chauvin’s trial, where she was overcome with emotion as she recalled Floyd’s terror and fear and pain, which she shared with millions of people via her cellphone.
In a social media post on the first anniversary of Floyd’s death, she reflected on the moment she filmed, describing a trauma that’s reverberated through every aspect of her life.
“Although this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a black man get killed at the hands of the police, this is the first time I witnessed it happen in front of me,” Frazier wrote. “Right in front of my eyes, a few feet away. I didn’t know this man from a can of paint, but I knew his life mattered. I knew that he was in pain. I knew that he was another Black man in danger with no power.”
Frazier said the trauma has manifested in panic and anxiety attacks, insomnia, having to leave home over safety concerns, and “closing my eyes at night only to see a man who is brown like me, lifeless on the ground.”
“A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one,” she said. “I was just in the right place at the right time. Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I’m a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day.”