Bakery bidding: Few takers for last Bey photos and posters
By Cecily Burt, Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — A former worker and two anonymous members of Yusuf Ali Bey’s vast family empire were the only bidders vying for the meager remnants of the bankrupt Your Black Muslim Bakery — 11 large, faded and grease-splattered photographs that used to hang from the walls.
Tevis Thompson, the trustee appointed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge, conducted the auction Tuesday and collected $285 total for the mostly poster-sized prints — two of the late bakery patriarch and one of his father Theron Stephens wearing a bow tie and kneading dough in the bakery’s early days. There also was a large canvas painting of the late Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam.
A small framed photograph of a seated Yusuf Bey surrounded by five of his wives was the only intimately-sized memento. It was purchased for $25 by a woman who would not give her name, but appeared to be one of the women in the picture.
Murray Muhammad, 51, a former bakery worker who has an educational and cultural resource center in downtown Oakland, paid $150 for six of the large prints, once outbidding a Bey family member for a large facial portrait of Elijah Muhammad.
He said he wanted the mementos because they reminded him of all the good the bakery and “Brother Bey” did for him and “thousands” like him, by putting out a hand when he most needed it and giving him a spiritual foundation.
“Twenty years ago I was homeless, I had only the clothes on my back,” he said. “(They) said, ‘Brother, are you looking for work?’ They gave me a job, they paid me, they fed me, they got me back on my feet. I stayed here 2 1/2 years.”
Murray Muhammad’s memories are very different from the picture many now have of the bakery and its late founder Yusuf Bey, who died while facing charges of raping young girls who worked for him. The bakery institution’s legacy, once held up as a model for promoting African-American self-reliance, is now linked with murder and violence. Bakery associate Devaughndre Broussard has been charged in the Aug. 2 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey.
Yusuf Bey IV, the bakery’s last CEO, sits in jail, charged with torturing and kidnapping of two women in May, vandalizing two West Oakland liquor stores in November 2005 and an assault in San Francisco in 2006. Several other Bey associates also are charged in those crimes.
The bakery enterprise spiraled into financial ruin after the 2003 death of patriarch Yusuf Bey and the unsolved murder of his hand-picked successor Waajid Aljawwaad in 2004. Bakery CEO Antar Bey, Yusuf Bey’s son, was fatally shot in 2005 during an attempted carjacking, and another top lieutenant, John Bey, was shot and wounded at his home that year.
Bey IV declared bankruptcy in late 2006 and the court ordered the business liquidated in August 2007. The heavily indebted bakery building on San Pablo Avenue and a two-story home that abuts the back of the lot were sold for $1.2 million to satisfy the IRS and other secured creditors.
A limited liability company purchased the property and is renovating the bakery building to become the home of Vital Life Services, a community nonprofit serving people with AIDS.
The court has not yet ruled on whether other properties worth $2.28 million that were gifted to Daulet Bey, one of Yusuf Bey’s wives, prior to the bankruptcy must be returned and sold to satisfy creditors.