Relics of bakery’s past go up for sale
By Josh Richman, Chauncey Bailey Project
Dotted with grease and smeared with what might have been frosting, the late Yusuf Ali Bey’s visage stares out from a poster-sized photograph with an expression of quiet authority and confidence.
But rather than standing sentinel over Your Black Muslim Bakery’s kitchen as it did for years, this face now stares into the darkness of a cluttered Martinez storage space, awaiting its final disposition in a bankruptcy trustee’s auction later this month.
On March 25, Tevis Thompson, the trustee appointed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to liquidate the bakery’s assets to satisfy its creditors, will auction off nine mostly poster-sized photos taken from the bakery headquarters at 5832 San Pablo Ave. in Oakland.
Two of the photos depict Bey alone; a small framed photo shows him with several women believed to be among the many mothers of his many children. Two more photos depict the late Elijah Muhammad, longtime leader of the Nation of Islam, from which the bakery splintered off decades ago. Another photo shows Theron Stephens, Bey’s father, wearing a chef’s toque and kneading dough. The people in three more photos aren’t easily identified.
It hadn’t initially occurred to Thompson that the photos might be worth auctioning until he received inquiries about them.
“People said, ‘What are you going to do with those?'” Thompson said.
The photos will be on display at 10 a.m. March 25 at the former bakery headquarters. An auction will start about 11 a.m., and the high bidder must pay that day with a company check or cashier’s check.
One of the potentially interested parties, Thompson said, is Kurt Zimmerman, whose limited liability company bought and is renovating the bakery headquarters on behalf of Vital Life Services, a nonprofit serving people with HIV/AIDS.
Zimmerman said Vital Life Services is incorporating some artifacts from the bakery — a butcher-block table and a mural — into its plans as a nod to “how the building has been used historically.”
But his interest in the photos is more pragmatic. He said he thought he might be able to buy the photos cheap and re-sell them on eBay to raise money for the nonprofit.
“We don’t have any personal desire for the photos,” he said.
The bakery’s reputation for bettering and empowering young African-American men has been immutably marred, and having Bey’s portrait on the wall isn’t the tone the building’s new owners want to set, he said.
Scores of police officers swarmed the bakery and other properties Aug. 3 to arrest four people — including bakery handyman Devaughndre Broussard, who has been charged in the Aug. 2 shotgun slaying of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey.
Police said Broussard confessed to the crime, admitting to killing Bailey as “a good soldier” for the bakery. He has since recanted, saying the confession was coerced.
Also arrested was Bey IV, first on a warrant connected to a San Francisco assault case and later on charges in a May kidnapping/assault incident in Oakland.
But this was only the latest violence dogging the bakery.
Yusuf Ali Bey’s 21-year-old son was fatally shot in 1994, the same year associates were charged with torturing a man, and Bey himself died of cancer in 2003 while facing charges of raping underage girls.
Bey’s successor, Waajid Aljawwaad Bey, was found in a shallow grave in the Oakland hills in 2004. The next bakery leader, Antar Bey, was fatally shot in a 2005 carjacking attempt, and Yusuf Bey IV took over just before being arrested on a charge of vandalizing two West Oakland liquor stores — part of a two-year string of arrests.
Court documents say the business went into a tailspin during this turmoil, and Bey IV filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2006. But he failed to file reports and pay fees, so the court in August ordered the business liquidated to satisfy creditors.
The photos aren’t all that remains of Your Black Muslim Bakery; factions of the Bey family still hover at the periphery, and the community’s strong emotions still resound.
Zimmerman said he has received calls in recent months from Daulet Bey – one of the family matriarchs, mother of final bakery CEO Yusuf Ali Bey IV – to whom he gave some pieces of bakery equipment left in the building.
Thompson’s attorney has sued Daulet Bey for the return of three bakery-owned properties worth $2.28 million gifted to her by her sons in the years before the bankruptcy. That case has been referred to a court-appointed “resolution advocate” who’ll mediate a deal.
Also, John Bey – an “adopted son” of Yusuf Ali Bey who ran the family’s security business but later fell out with the family’s younger generation – has called as well, inquiring about the building renovation’s progress, Zimmerman said.
He has had “a number of men come through,” men in their 40s and 50s “who were part of the bakery and have praised the bakery in the sense that they felt they were saved, from a standpoint of getting their lives together and making them men,” he said. “They’re saddened and dismayed and upset by the power of greed and all the problems that have happened over the last six or seven years. They feel that at one time, it served the community right.”