Chauncey Bailey Project

From Texas to Oakland, the elder Bey’s path to the bakery

Yusuf Bey, patriarch of Your Black Muslim Bakery (Oakland Tribune file photo)
Yusuf Bey, patriarch of Your Black Muslim Bakery (Oakland Tribune file photo)

Yusuf Bey, patriarch of Your Black Muslim Bakery (Oakland Tribune file photo)

By Mary Fricker, Bob Butler and Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project

From the beginning, Yusuf Bey’s business and religious endeavors were wracked with disputes, controversy and violence.

Bey was born Joseph H. Stephens in Greenville, Texas, near Dallas, on Dec. 21, 1935, to Ruth and Theron Stephens. At age 5, his family moved to Oakland, where he later attended Oakland Technical High School, according to a brief life history he prepared. After four years in the Air Force, from 1952 to 1956, he went to Santa Barbara Cosmetology School and from 1960 to 1973 he owned Red Carpet Coiffeurs beauty salons in Santa Barbara and Berkeley, he said. In later years, his followers called him Dr. Bey.

Joseph became a follower of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad in the early 1960s, when he was 27 or 28 years old, he told reporters 15 years ago. In the 1960s, his brother Billy X Stephens was the minister of a Nation of Islam mosque in Santa Barbara and Joseph was secretary.

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In an early sign of trouble, a member of the Santa Barbara mosque wrote a letter to Nation of Islam leaders in Chicago in 1968 complaining that he had been forced to burn two of the Stephens family Cadillacs in an insurance fraud scheme.

On Aug. 17, 1968, he and his wife were slain with a .30-.30 rifle as they slept. The slayings were never solved. The police investigation focused mainly on Billy X.

“The word out on the street now by local Muslems is that ‘Justice has been served,'”‰” Santa Barbara police Chief Jack Hawe noted three days after the killings. Billy X denied any wrongdoing.

Two years later, the Stephens brothers moved to Oakland to open another mosque at Elijah Muhammad’s request. In 1973, Joseph gave up his beauty salons to work in the East Bay bakery his father had started in 1968. He took the Muslim name Yusuf Bey and started a Nation of Islam splinter group that became Your Black Muslim Bakery. He later described himself in sermons to bakery members as being more a follower of Elijah Muhammad than of the Nation of Islam.

Muhammad, who died in 1975 at age 77, glorified blacks, denounced whites, promoted separatism, black empowerment and healthy living and built paramilitary squads of young men to instill discipline. He stressed the importance of black entrepreneurs, and he started bakeries, schools and other businesses. At times he condoned violence, and though married he had sex with multiple women, according to “The Messenger,” a 2001 biography by Washington Post Online Editor Karl Evanzz. Muhammad became a multimillionaire and had 22 children, according to court records in the probate of Muhammad’s estate.

Elijah Muhammad’s life was the path Bey chose to follow for three decades, until his death in 2003 at age 67.

Chauncey Bailey Project reporters and researchers contributed to this story.

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Special investigation
Day One
:
Two years later: The Chauncey Bailey slaying
The Chauncey Bailey slaying: Key players
From Texas to Oakland, the elder Bey’s path to the bakery
Yusuf Bey built business empire with questionable tactics
Welfare money-maker for senior Bey
Bey’s security firms important financial arm of his businesses
Yusuf Bey IV grew up in prominent yet troubled bakery
Bailey suspects, associates left behind $6 million trail of bad loans
Security business at Marriott earns praise
Day Two:
The Oakland Post pushes forward despite loss of its prolific editor
Chauncey Bailey’s family still in pain two years after killing
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