Darnella Frazier’s memory will forever be embedded with the imagery of George Floyd‘s death. The now 18-year-old held the camera which captured Floyd’s last earthly moments as former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin murdered him in an act of state-sanctioned violence on May 25, 2020.
On that fateful day Darnella, who was 17 at the time, was visiting Cup Foods with her 9-year-old cousin when she saw Chauvin and several other officers restraining Floyd in a way which seemed violent and abusive. She and other bystanders can be heard pleading with Chauvin to release Floyd from under his knee, but their asks went answered. Little did she know the video captured on her camera phone would change the world.
The moment made her an unwilling witness to death, one that she has rarely spoken publicly about save for her stirring testimony during Chauvin’s trial, which along with other heartbreaking witness testimonies, led to Chauvin’s conviction.
On Tuesday, marking the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death Darnella wrote a lengthy Facebook tribute to Floyd, summarizing her thoughts on the year that changed everything and the loss of her innocence.
“A year ago today I witnessed a murder,” she began. The victim’s name was George Floyd. Although this wasn’t the first time, I’ve seen black men get killed at the hands of police, this is the first time I witnessed it happen in front of me. 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.”
For Darnella, the moment came with great sacrifice and loss, including anxiety attacks, depression and the deterioration of her mental health. Some even went so far as to attack the teen for not intervening in an impossible situation.
“I am 18 now and I still hold the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago. It’s a little easier now, but I’m not who I used to be,” she continued.
The event has also affected her family and raised concerns about their safety.
On the other side of the spectrum Darnella was heralded for her video and was awarded the 2020 PEN/Berenson Courage Award in December from Oscar-winning director Spike Lee.
The award provided acclaim that she doesn’t know how to weigh. “A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one. 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’m reminded of every day.”
She also called for law enforcement reform and accountability in her reflection. But in the end, Darnella grasped that she and Floyd will forever be linked.
“George Floyd, I can’t express enough how I wish things could have went different, but I want you to know you will always be in my heart,” she wrote. “I’ll always remember this day because of you. May your soul rest in peace. May you rest in the most beautiful roses.”
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