Tween Talk with Eugenia Tachie Menson
You are 17 years old and are babysitting your 9y/o cousin – you both decide to go to the shops to get something to snack on. On your way, you see a sight, a scene that has you transfixed for a moment – policemen holding a man down on the road, near the back of the police car. What would you think – hey caught an armed robber?
You were so horrified by what you saw and suddenly realised people gathering around, also watching in disbelief. You quickly lead your little cousin into the shops for safety and (probably) ask her to stay there – then you get back to the scene and can’t believe your eyes. Then, without thinking, you pull out your mobile phone and start recording the scene…which lasts for almost 10minutes, during which the man who had been caught had his life snuffed out of him…he was lying lifeless.
The 17-year-old is not you, of course – it’s Darnella Frazier, the African American who is being credited as the key witness who made it possible for Derek Chauvin to be convicted of the murder of George Floyd.
Derek Chauvin and his 3 colleague Policemen all lost their jobs in the aftermath of the murder. You have heard of this case, right? Only someone living under a rock wouldn’t have heard of this one case that rallied the world together in a time when we all were threatened by a deadly virus – COVID-19. Sad that it was the gruesome death of a man that united the world in 2020.
George Floyd was an African American man who, during an arrest by the Police, had a Policeman kneel on his neck for close to 10minutes. A store clerk alleged Floyd had passed a counterfeit US$20 bill in Minneapolis and called the Police. Derek Chauvin, one of three police officers who arrived on the scene, knelt on Floyd’s neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds*. His last words before dying, “I can’t breathe” was used as a rallying cry during subsequent protests against police brutality, especially towards Black people, that quickly spread across the United States, and the world.
The other point of the protest was to demand justice for the murder of Floyd by the Derek Chauvin, the Police. Derek Chauvin and his 3 colleague Policemen were fired from the Police Service for the murder of George Floyd. And this paved the way for them to be tried as civilians. By this time, the video Darnella Frazier had recorded of the murder had been gone viral and everyone had declared Chauvin as the obvious murderer.
During Chauvin’s trial in April 2021, Darnella was one of the first witnesses called to testify. I was glued to my screen – my heroine was about to speak. She was emotional throughout her testimony and told of how Floyd’s death haunted her – she cried several times throughout her testimony which was off-camera. One could tell she was truly traumatized by the filming of, sharing of and talking about the murder.
“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they’re all Black,” Darnella said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends.” By this time, I was in tears too, because we all have male family members and if we had had to watch any of them die the way Darnella watched Floyd die, I don’t know how many of us would have it in us to recount the incident.
Then I begun to wonder; how many of us have witnessed an injustice, recorded it but rather shared it in jest? I see many footages of young children who are unable to answer seemingly basic questions, usually posed by an adult, and being ridiculed. I also see many videos which seem to body-shame people, again, ridiculing others.
Why can’t we use our phones to do good like Darnella did? Shouldn’t we rather ask pertinent questions as to why that child being ridiculed has been failed by the education system? Wouldn’t that rather be helpful in the long run?
We need more tweenagers like you to be in tune with your civic sense – showing your sense of responsibility to society. There are many young people like Darnella out there, leading the way.
Could you be Ghana’s Darnella Frazier?
*according to/culled from Wikipedia