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Jesse Washington Directs ESPN+’s Black History Always Film About Darnella Frazier

Frazier's video of George Floyd's death sparked outrage and a movement; in his directorial debut, The Undefeated's senior writer was moved to tell her story

Painting of Darnella Frazier by: Rebecca Lazinger

A year ago, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier recorded a horrific scene that transpired on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minn.

Within a 10-minute window, Frazier captured the moments leading up to the death of George Floyd while police officer Derek Chauvin was arresting him. Unbeknownst to Frazier, filming the incident would serve as a catalyst in the conviction of Chauvin on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter last month.

On Saturday, May 29, The Undefeated on ESPN+ will debut the third installment of its Black History Always Special series entitled “I Bear Witness: A Profile of Darnella Frazier.” Viewers will learn about the courageous young lady through the eyes of her community, the sports world, and people around the country. The program will explain what led to her act of bravery that changed the world.

Jesse Washington, senior writer for The Undefeated, will make his directorial debut with the 30-minute special. Washington is familiar with the topic as he worked on articles surrounding the case; he reported from Minneapolis during the trial. He spoke with Front Row in the middle of finishing his first film.

In this excerpt from “I Bear Witness,” Darnella Frazier mourns George Floyd. (ESPN)

You can now add director to your credits. What was the experience like working on this particular project?
I’m thankful for all the people at The Undefeated and ESPN who helped me make my directing debut, and I appreciate that our company provides space to tell a story about a Black girl who is not an athlete but changed the world that athletes live in.

I’ve always said that working for The Undefeated is a both a privilege and a responsibility. That has never been more true than with this portrait of Darnella Frazier.

What does the Black History Always initiative mean to you?
I feel incredibly fortunate to contribute to The Undefeated’s Black History Always Special series. It allows us to tell some of our most important stories that often don’t get the proper recognition. Darnella is widely praised for filming the murder of George Floyd, but very little has been known about who Darnella is and how she has suffered over this past year. I think the depth of her experience will move people. That’s absolutely a story that should be told, not only what she did, but also who she is.

Why was it important for you to tell this story?
It was important because the role of Black women in pursuing and seizing justice continues to be under appreciated. We need to document and understand the fact that Black women and Black youth have always been at the very forefront of the justice movement.

What did it tell you about the challenges faced by the community?
The challenge of healing is enormous and is the challenge of caring for the parts of our community that need the most help. So even after Derek Chauvin had been convicted, my reporting from Minneapolis and George Floyd Square showed me how much work still needs to be done not just in terms of justice and in taking care of our people.

Jesse Washington (Patricia Ingram/ESPN)
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