‘Mentor to so many’: Cleveland community mourns the loss of activist Mansfield Frazier

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Cleveland community is mourning the loss of longtime journalist, activist and vintner, Mansfield Frazier.

The 78-year-old lost his battle with cancer on Saturday but not before impacting the lives of many Clevelanders.

“He was for the people, he was for the community he was a mentor to so many,” said Frazier’s daughter, Ashley Smith. “I have met so many people who he was a father figure to.”

Frazier grew up in Cleveland and tried to get a solid career but faced many obstacles.

“He was working in industry, but was discriminated against,” said Retired Municipal Judge C Ellen Connally, a longtime friend of Frazier. “He was probably the best worker there and they would give a white guy the supervisor job.”

When Frazier left Cleveland, he soon found himself on the wrong side of the law. He got involved in credit card scams and was constantly in and out of jail, getting arrested 15 times.

Instead of continuing a bad path, he taught himself to read and write while behind bars and even published his first book. When he was released in the late ’90s, he turned his life around. He became an editor for multiple newspapers, worked in radio, wrote columns for CoolCleveland and ran for council.

Frazier also did something not many would have imagined. He opened a winery in the Hough Neighborhood of Cleveland.

“To put a vineyard in, as we like to call ‘the hood’ of Cleveland … in a less desirable area and to beautify it, to create jobs and to create opportunities,” Smith said.

Frazier and his wife created Chateau Hough Vineyards and Winery in 2010. In April, Fox 8 spoke with Frazier who said this wasn’t just a normal business venture. This was to help change the perception of the Hough neighborhood.

“Establishing a vineyard was kind of a political statement,” Frazier told FOX 8 in April. “The statement we’re making is that the land we occupy here in Hough, it’s just as valuable to us as the land the people occupy in Hunting Valley is to them.”

Sunday morning, the tributes started pouring in, including from both Cleveland mayoral candidates.

Justin Bibb saying Mansfield’s life is a story of redemption and second chances; the hope that lies beyond the struggle. Kevin Kelley tweeted that Cleveland is a better place because of the activism, vision and voice of Mansfield Frazier.

“His lesson is, if you go down a bad path you can make it better,” said Connally. “You can take the lemon and make lemonade. You made a mistake but you can correct yourself.”

Frazier leaves behind his wife and two daughters. His daughter Ashley says she’ll continue her father’s legacy by helping create jobs and resources for at-risk youth and for those coming out of the prison system.

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