Bakery enterprise spirals out of control
By Angela Hill and Josh Richman, Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — The weapons seizures Friday morning at Your Black Muslim Bakery — and a possible link to the Thursday shooting death of journalist Chauncey Bailey — are just the latest elements in an increasingly volatile tale of personal, professional, financial and criminal troubles within this group once hailed as a positive influence for young black men.
On Oct. 24, Your Black Muslim Bakery Inc., with its CEO listed as Yusuf Ali Bey (also known as Yusuf Bey IV), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to reorganize its business while under the court’s protection from creditors.
Sources said the bankruptcy filing was the subject of recent research for an upcoming news article by Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, just before he was shot in a targeted daylight attack in downtown Oakland Thursday morning.
According to the bankruptcy petition, the bakery business had about $1.85 million in assets and $900,000 in debts — $700,000 owed to the mortgage holder on its building at 5832 San Pablo Ave., which was about to be foreclosed upon, and $200,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
But in June, the federal trustee in the case reported that — although the company had assets worth about $2 million and debts of about $1 million — it wasn’t filing the proper reports or paying its fees. The trustee said creditors could not tell how the business was doing. An order came down to “liquidate the property for the benefit of creditors.”
The business instead asked in June that the case be dismissed, saying “it is now in the position to move forward.”
But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Edward Jellen agreed with the trustees, filing an order Friday converting the company’s case into a Chapter 7 liquidation effective Aug. 9, and naming a trustee to oversee the company’s dismantling.
These financial troubles are just part of a steady decline in the bakery’s condition both before and after the 2003 death of its founder, Black Muslim patriarch Yusuf Bey.
And what was considered a positive force in the African-American community several years ago has become “a sad situation,” said Joe Debro, a construction company executive long involved in Oakland issues who has worked with the Beys in the past.
“I think (Bey’s organization) did some great work over the years,” Debro said. “I used to work with the old man rather closely on some construction projects. Their school was first-rate, as far as I knew. And they were known for employing the unemployable.
“Unfortunately, when the father died, the whole thing ran off the track,” he said. “Now these youngsters are out of control and greedy. They’ve squandered all the money and gotten involved in some bad things. It’s really too bad.”
Bey, originally from Texas, founded the bakery in 1968, building his organization on ideals of black empowerment, respect and self-reliance. The group was not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, an umbrella organization for African-American Muslims nationwide.
For many years, Bey was highly regarded among many sectors of the community as a formidable businessman, trying to better the lives of young African-American men. His business ventures grew beyond the bakery, eventually including a security company, dry cleaning stores, a school and a health and beauty store, becoming the most visible Black Muslim organization in the Bay Area.
At the same time, tales of intimidation and violence in business dealings swirled around Bey’s family and followers. His 21-year-old son, Akbar, was shot and killed outside an Oakland nightclub in 1994. Critics cited rumors of racism and violence related to Bey, his organization and his “family” of young black men.
Though outspoken and controversial, Bey himself generally had been immune to this talk of possible criminal activity. He ran for Oakland mayor in 1994 and garnered 5 percent of the vote. And he hosted a local cable TV show for a while.
Then a year before his death from cancer in 2003 at age 67, the man who had once been viewed as an upstanding role model was charged with 27 counts in the alleged rapes of four girls under the age of 14. He was awaiting trial on one of those charges when he died.
Since his death, some say the group has become little more than a street gang. Two heirs to Bey’s leadership have been killed. The badly decomposed body of Waajid Aliawaad Bey, 51, CEO of the bakery at the time, was found in a shallow grave in the Oakland hills in 2004. Then Yusuf Bey’s son Antar Bey, 23, was shot to death in 2005 in a failed carjacking attempt at a gas station on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
And now Bey’s son and third successor, 23-year-old Bey IV, was detained in the raids Friday morning, and has had numerous previous contacts with law enforcement.
In a pending case, he is accused of leading a 2005 vandalism attack on two liquor stores in West Oakland. According to the charges, eyewitnesses identified Bey IV and others after viewing a security camera videotape that showed a group of men in black suits and bow ties smashing liquor cases and bottles of booze.
Police were told by store owners and employees that the vandals chastised clerks for selling alcohol to African Americans, which they said is against the tenets of their Muslim faith.
In addition, Bey IV was arrested in 2006 on assault charges in San Francisco after allegedly trying to run down three security guards with his car outside a nightclub. He also has missed several court dates.
Some say there is still good in the bakery group, but that positive elements of the elder Bey’s legacy might be eclipsed by this current atmosphere of crime and violence.