Requiem for Aisha

(Aisha Fraser was stabbed to death by her ex husband Lance Mason on Nov. 17, 2018.)

In the 1970s African and Arabic names were on the rise in the Black community. I myself have a Swahili name, Najaa. I have many family and friends named, Kwame, Jabari, Jamila and… Aisha. Aisha in Arabic means full of life, vivacious and alive which, Aisha Fraser should still be. See, like Aisha Fraser I’m a Cleveland girl. I’ve lived in several cities and called a couple my home but there’s something about being a Cleveland native that kinda makes you different. Cleveland could easily be a city in the South, my new home. Our sayings and mannerisms harken back to the days of the first generation of Black Clevelanders who made the Great Migration north… basically, “we country.” Our BBQ is superb, you can get chicken, fish and a good corned beef sandwich on every corner and our culinary piece du resistance, the Polish Boy, is Black genius on a BBQ sauce soaked bun.

We are at the same time as progressive as we are country. There is a solid Black middle class, thanks in large part to Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, and many Black owned businesses. In 1967 Cleveland elected he first Black mayor of a major American city, a lawyer named Carl B. Stokes, who went on to serve for 2 terms. His older brother Louis B. Stokes was the first Black congressman in Ohio. He served for 30 years. The name Stokes is still synonymous in Cleveland with law and politics in addition to many buildings and other monuments bearing their name. It was also the home of Stanley Tolliver, famous civil rights attorney who was legal counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King and took on Civil Rights cases in Mississippi. He represented Kent State University students who survived the National Guard shooting in 1970 and Black nationalist Ahmed Evans. If you have the name Tolliver folks want to know which one you’re related to, the esteemed lawyer or the legendary local DJ Lynn Tolliver. Your answer, depending on the time and place, could open the right doors for you.

You need to understand that Cleveland is all about who you know. “Who your people?” To say it is cliquish is an understatement and the Black elite of the metropolitan area do much to protect their status. Everything and everyone has its place in Cleveland. One must attend the right schools, which eventually became the white schools, participate in the right cotillions, join the right organizations and attend the right fundraisers. One would also have to join the right sorority or fraternity and purchase a home to live in the right, which eventually came to be white, neighborhood. Shaker Heights where Aisha Fraser was killed used to be the “right” white neighborhood.

Shaker Heights is an inner ring suburb of Cleveland. I wanted to live in Shaker Heights most of my childhood. It was less than 2 miles from where I grew up and the large homes, mostly Tudors, Colonials and 2 story Cape Cods with large manicured lawns, were the envy of Cleveland. Their school system in the 80’s was considered one of the best in northeast Ohio. All of the kids, even the Black ones, looked like they stepped out of the movies Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Their parents were doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and even world famous entertainers… like Eddie Levert of the O’Jays, whose sons’ Gerald and Sean attended Shaker Heights High School.

My brothers and I often walked through Shaker Heights and when we saw houses we liked we’d yell, “that’s my house.” We called ourselves “exploring” but we were actually dreaming, imagining ourselves living there. Our home and neighborhood in the Kinsman area of Cleveland was nice by most standards but in Shaker Heights there were beautiful ponds, big homes, parks and clean, spacious public libraries. My father worked at Ford and my mother was an artist and educator, we had a nice lower middle class life but not a Shaker life… the perfect life.

While it has definitely declined in the last 20 years and lost some of its luster of exclusivity, Shaker Heights is still home to some of Cleveland’s Black “old guard” and well to do Black professionals. In 2014 Aisha Fraser’s then husband, Judge Lance Mason, viscously beat her in their car as they sat at a stop light in Shaker Heights. He broke her eye socket, bit her, bashed her head several times on the dash board and repeatedly punched her as their two small children watched from the back seat. After police had him in custody they searched the home and found multiple weapons — guns, a sword and THOUSANDS of rounds of ammunition. Lance Mason was preparing for war with something or someone and that someone had to have been his wife Aisha Fraser. Lance Mason was eventually convicted of attempted felonious assault and sentenced to just 2 1/2 years for the ruthless attack on Aisha, which means that the prosecutor and Mason’s lawyers worked out a deal and his charges were plead down to the lesser charge of attempted felonious assault. Let that sink in. Lance didn’t attempt to assault her, he DID assault her, and he attempted to KILL her!

Aisha Fraser should still be alive. She had done everything right in life. Even in death she continues to do things right by having her memorial service at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, one of Cleveland’s most prestigious houses of worship and used to serve as headquarters for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when he was in town. She was college educated, a member of the 2nd but largest Black sorority in the nation — Delta Sigma Theta — and an educator with over 2 decades of experience. She married the “handsome” and accomplished Judge Lance Mason, had 2 beautiful little girls and a beautiful home. Her uncle is nationally known power broker, motivational speaker and author George C. Fraser. Aisha and I are the same age and she had the life I’d always wanted. She had the Shaker life, the “perfect” life, but I see now and understand that this life was just a facade, a goddamned lie, because even with her many accomplishments, material things, familial, political and sorority connections she couldn’t be protected… rather, she wouldn’t be.

In 2015 Aisha’s own sorority sister, Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, a former Cleveland judge and past national president of Delta Sigma Theta, wrote a letter of support for Aisha’s ex-husband Lance Mason during his sentencing for viciously beating her. Mason and Fudge had served on the bench together in Cleveland. Did this bond outweigh the bond of supposed sisterhood between Marcia and Aisha? Clearly, it did. How does one do that? Why? How do you write a letter of support for a man that beat his wife so badly that she had to have facial reconstructive surgery? Marcia claimed then and now that the Lance Mason she knew would never commit these heinous acts and yet… he did. Oh, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia… where was your sisterhood when you wrote this letter? Regardless of the fact that Aisha is your sorority sister, she’s a fellow BLACK WOMAN. Did you think about what type of man would beat his wife, choke her, bite her and break her eye socket? Did you think about what type of man would do these things in front of his very young daughters? Did you actually think this was his first time abusing Aisha? Did you think about what type of man would be brazen enough to ask you, a Black woman and her sorority sister, to write him a letter of support after he committed this violence against his wife and children? Oh, Marcia… SIS, DID YOU THINK? (I know I thought when I VOTED FOR YOU many years ago.)

Marcia’s name “rings bells” in Cleveland, Ohio but her support alone couldn’t have gotten Lance the lite sentence he received for this heinous assault. Other prominent officials wrote letters of support for him (you can read their names here: https://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/2018/11/the-many-important-people-who-vouched-for-wife-beater-and-former-judge-lance-mason.html). The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and the presiding judge, his former colleagues, presiding over this case were in on this travesty of justice too. Interestingly enough, Frank Jackson, the current mayor of Cleveland who hired Lance Mason after he was released from prison also worked in the prosecutor’s office years ago though he claims that he had no knowledge of Lance’s violent background or conviction.

Lance was released after serving just 9 months of his prison sentence, the time it takes to incubate a child in the womb. I wonder what ol’ Lance was incubating during that time… was he planning to kill Aisha then? He actually wrote a book while serving his time about how prison had made him a changed man (THE AUDACITY), but we all know now that’s not true. In reality he continued to stalk and harass Aisha and finally SUCCEEDED in killing her in the driveway of the Shaker Heights home Aisha was renting his sister as his sister and 2 young daughters listened from inside the home, a home located across the street from my cousin’s home.

I didn’t personally know Aisha but I feel like I did. News of her death was like a punch in the gut to me and the more facts that emerge in this case the more I am sickened by the whole thing. In many ways our lives paralleled one another. I am from Cleveland, college educated, a member of a sorority, and an accomplished professional but Aisha had gotten what all little girls are taught that they need, marriage and a successful husband. I have neither. She’d done everything right according to society’s standards and that didn’t protect her, it didn’t spare her life of violence and injustice. (Your bank account balance, credit score, degrees and awards won’t protect you sisters!) No one gave a damn about Aisha Fraser, not the judges, the prosecutors, the politicians… no one. She was just another woman, a Black woman, and white and BLACK FOLKS (men and WOMEN) failed her… terribly.

And I am angry…