Chauncey Bailey Project

Book soon to be released on Bailey murder

By Josh Richman, Bay Area News Group

A book recounting the dawn, growth and murderous crescendo of Oakland’s Your Black Muslim Bakery is about to hit the stands, penned by one of the Chauncey Bailey Project’s lead reporters and adding new details to the sensational case.

“Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist” by Bay Area News Group digital investigative reporter Thomas Peele will be released Feb. 7 by the Crown Publishing Group.

Peele’s investigation led him to conclude Yusuf Bey IV seized the bakery’s reins by ordering the 2005 murder of his elder brother, Antar, in what most took for a carjacking gone awry. And he presents evidence that implicates the elder Yusuf Bey in plotting the racially-motivated “Zebra murders” that shocked the Bay Area in the early 1970s.

Publisher’s Weekly calls it an “eye-opening narrative about radical religion and its consequences. Peele renders characters and scenes with rich detail and his chronicle of events surrounding Bailey’s death unfolds with the seamlessness of a fictional thriller, would that were the case.”

The book explores the Black Muslim movement’s roots and details how Joseph Stephens renamed himself Yusuf Bey to establish the bakery as an institution of black empowerment with deep community and political ties in Oakland. But beneath the bakery’s surface roiled a cesspool of fraud, rape and murder — a cesspool that spilled over into the streets as Bey’s sons succeeded him at the bakery’s helm.

The final victim of this half-cult, half-organized-crime-family was Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, who was writing about the bakery’s inner turmoil when he was gunned down in August 2007 by bakery worker Devaughndre Broussard at the order of Yusuf Bey IV. Broussard eventually testified against Bey IV and another bakery associate; Bey IV was convicted last year of ordering Bailey’s murder and two others.

Bailey’s murder spawned the Chauncey Bailey Project, a cooperative effort of many Bay Area media outlets, nonprofits and schools that resolved to expand upon Bailey’s work as well as probe the circumstances of his death and its investigation by police. Peele, 50, was among the project’s lead reporters, and shared in its national awards, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Tom Renner Award for reporting on organized crime as well as the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage.

“What happened to Bailey is a far bigger story than just his — it’s a story about an attack on a cornerstone of American democracy, a free press,” Peele said Tuesday.

“I wanted to explore where the Beys and the Nation of Islam’s original belief systems came from and examine the exploitation that is at the core of those beliefs,” he said of the book. “I also wanted to explore conditions in Oakland that allowed the Bey cult to survive and rise to political prominence for more than three decades, even after the horrors of Yusuf Bey were well exposed.”

Peele will discuss the book with Martin Reynolds, BANG’s senior editor for community engagement, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at Diesel, 5433 College Ave., in Oakland.

Learn more about the book at  Josh Richman also reported for the Chauncey Bailey Project. Follow him at Read the Political Blotter at



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