Two Black Institutions, and One Black Future, Murdered in One Hit
(Photo © Oakland Post, Archives)
On Thursday, the news was abuzz from the moment I got in my car, heading to work. A Black community hero had been gunned down right here in the Bay Area. Shot in broad daylight by a masked gunman while walking to his job at 7:30 AM. His name was Chauncey Bailey, Editor in Chief for the African-American newspaper in Oakland, the Oakland Post. News Director for SoulBeat, the East Bay public-broadcast television program aimed at Black folks.
(Photo ©Trace3, Flickr.com (2007))
On Friday, the news was abuzz from the moment I got in my car, heading to work. There was a hardcore police raid going on in Oakland, which had cordoned off San Pablo Avenue, one of two major thoroughfares. At the time I was listening) to the radio, 15 out of 19 people had been arrested on warrants for kidnapping, murder and other heinous crimes. This was the news about the raid on The Your Black Muslim Bakery, a fixture in the Oakland community for four decades, having been opened during the heyday of Black Power by a man who called himself "Dr. Yusuf Bey", a member of the original Nation of Islam under the Hon. Elijah Muhammad.
It was only hours later the KGO folks came out and said straight what they'd been hinting in their usual sensationalist coverage all morning: these two events were related.
And so it was. Because, yesterday, we learned that a 19-year old named Devaughndray Broussard -- a baby younger than 2 of my children, and a handyman at the Your Black Muslim Bakery -- had confessed to murdering Chauncey Bailey, because he was being "good soldier" of the Your Black Muslim Bakery.
(Photo ©Oakland Tribune (2007))
So with just a couple of shotgun blasts, two community institutions and yet another tiny piece of our people's future went to their literal and figurative death.
When Chauncey Bailey was taken out early Thursday morning, in a broad daylight hit, nobody knew why, although if you knew anything about Oakland you knew that Chauncey Bailey had pissed off a lot of people in his decades as a reporter: gangbangers, government officials, corrupt folks generally, you name it. He was Old School Black and by all accounts a reporter fiercely dedicated to getting the news to the Black community despite several adversities, professionally and personally (although he was engaged to be married). I personally first heard of Bailey in around 2002, when I was really beginning to focus my professional attention almost exclusively on subprime mortgage lending and the systematic targeting of predatory mortgages, predatory mortgage servicing, and predatory mortgage brokering on African-American homeowners, especially here in the Bay Area. Chauncey Bailey wrote repeatedly about subprime lending and the grassroots efforts by community organizations, like ACORN to help communities like Oakland that were targeted for these bogus loans loans long, long before the MSM started finally caring six months ago when mortgage companies started failing en masse and financial giants like Bear Stearns were melting down from their aggressive willingness to securitize subprime and Alt-A mortgage backed securities, including through sales to hedge funds.
(As a totally unrelated aside, can I get a "Poor Baby!" for the recent troubles of Bear Stearns, parent company of EMC Mortgage Company, rumored to be one of the worst predatory mortgage servicers according to those who keep track of complaints and lawsuits, to the point where even those in the federal government whose theoretical job it is to look into this type of stuff (Federal Trade Commission) actually had to pay at least some attention? No? Well, OK then =))
When the story of Chauncey Bailey's murder first broke, nobody knew exactly why Bailey had been killed, or by whom, but it was shocking, to say the least, though - because Bailey commanded such respect as a reporter, even from those folks whose feet he'd previously held to the fire. Besides, reporters don't usually get killed in the line of duty (except in places like Iraq), right?
Well, maybe they do. Even worse, maybe they do by people who you'd think, from their history, were on the same side as them.
As appears to be the case with the murder of the pro-Black Chauncey Bailey, at the hands of a "good soldier" for the pro-Black Your Black Muslim Bakery.
The story of the Your Black Muslim Bakery's descent into madness from its glory days is depressing, indeed. Founded by Yusuf Bay, Sr. and moved to Oakland in 1971, the Your Black Muslim Bakery was initially a neighborhood bakery selling the usual bean pies, carrot cakes and other Muslim foods. Its founder said that he was trying to serve as a positive influence and role model to Black people, encouraging our entrepreneurial spirit and the ideals of self-reliance. Thus, Bey, through the Bakery, did all the things that Black-empowerment oriented people at the time tried to do. Fed people. Sponsored community education classes, including in particular religious classes associated with the Nation of Islam. Stuff like that.
One thing that it also did was take in young brothers coming from the prisons having paid their debts to society, and gave them housing they could afford and jobs when no one else would. Those who did well, and raised themselves up, were apparently ultimately permitted to take on the family surname, "Bey". And a number of young men over the years did.
The Your Black Muslim Bakery grew over time into a financial empire, with more than a dozen businesses and various contracts, including with the Oakland Airport. The Bey family, biological and non-, ultimately controlled a multimillion dollar enterprise that nonetheless served as a community institution in the East Bay at the same time. Its actions and reputation was beloved by much of the grassroots in Oakland.
Yet over time, there developed a dark reputation associated with the bakery and, in particular, some of the men who made up the Bey clan. Rumors of assault, kidnapping, and other scurrilous behavior circulated. All hell started breaking loose in 2003, when Yusuf Bay, Sr. was accused of having molested and raped four young women over a period of 20 years, having fathered several of their children.
I know those of us who know our history will realize that this type of scandalous behavior with young impressionable girls sounds depressingly familiar.
Bey, Sr. was facing trial for charges relating to one of them when he died following complications for colon cancer surgery in October 2003. Bey, Sr.'s death appears to have been the beginning of the end for the Your Black Muslim Bakery as a legitimate community institution. (Indeed, today there is still a "Coming Soon!" notice on the page of the bakery's website intended for his obituary, 4 years after Bey, Sr.'s death.) Within four months after Bey, Sr.'s death, his named-successor and CEO of the Your Black Muslim Bakery businesses, Waajid Bey, disappeared and was later found buried in the Oakland Hills, murdered. Antar Bey, Yusuf Sr.'s son, was gunned down in what was deemed an attempted carjacking, a few months later. That led to 19-year old Yusuf Bey, IV becoming the heir to the business empire created as a vehicle of Black empowerment.
Perhaps because at 19 most people don't know anything about business, the organization's downward spiral accelerated at that point. In late 2005, Yusuf IV decided that he'd personally had enough with liquor sales in the Black community - a sentiment many would agree with. So he reportedly led a bunch of equally young and foolish folks into several immigrant-owned liquor stores in Oakland and proceeded to trash them if he found out that the owners were Muslims, saying that drinking was against Islam. Bey IV managing to get himself caught on videotape in the process and, thus, arrested and charged with vandalism and hate crimes (because of the religious targeting) to boot. Not satisfied, a few months later he allegedly tried to run a bouncer over with his car after being ejected from a nightclub/strip joint, and ended up charged with attempted murder.
Obviously, this type of youthful exuberance left young Yusuf Bey IV too busy to actually run the business. It therefore makes perfect sense that he ran it into the ground, such that last year, the bakery ended up in Chapter 11, staving off its creditors. (Unfortunately, because the bakery reportedly wasn't forthcoming in bankruptcy with its books, that case was involuntarily converted to Chapter 7 recently.) Meaning that, even before the nightmare of Thursday and Friday, the bakery, and its glorious legacy, was truly finished.
Chauncey Bailey was working on a story about the Your Muslim Bakery when he was murdered. Speaking truth to power, and carrying on the earlier tradition of the East Bay Express in exposing the ugly and criminal side of the Bey empire. Just as he'd done regularly where corruption was concerned.
This time, it cost Chauncey Bailey his life. At the hands of his own people, who claimed to be serving the same community he was serving, for the same stated reasons: love of, and service to, the Black community.
And it is that depressing, painful, fact that caused me to spend my entire Sunday researching and writing this admittedly-long piece.
I have to ask: Has the wanton devaluation of life and community that has routinely been dismissed as "ghetto" and the result of a "dysfunctional underclass" now become so entrenched that it will now reach out to claim our most venerable institutions and beloved voices? Are we witnessing the cooptation of instruments of Black power, for the same twisted purposes -- silencing our most important voices speaking truth to power, out of nothing more than ego and greed -- as we accused the Man of having? And will it again lead to the utter devaluation and delegitimization of our community institutions which, at least in part, did try to do some good even if the flawed human beings in charge of them also did some evil?
If that happens, what happens to our people's hope?
It hurts to ask questions like this about why Chauncey Bailey's life ended on Thursday morning. Why the Bakery now stands as a symbol of Oakland's shame instead of its Black pride. It really does. But despite I think we who love Black people simply have to ask questions like that.
Because if we do not, ghosts of Malcolm X's assassination 42 years ago, also at the hands of folks who had peripheral association with the Nation of Islam, following what they thought was the lead of Minister Farrakhan (who admitted his rhetoric saying that Malcolm basically "deserved to die" for publicly criticizing Elijah Muhammad for hypocrisy -- also with young girls/women -- and breaking off the Nation created the climate which ultimately led to Malcolm's X's death) may raise up yet again to slay Black folks coming together as a pragmatic solution to our problems, yet again.
For the record, the thuggish-ruggish rogues posing as members of the Nation of Islam by dressing like members of the Nation claim that they are not in fact affiliated with the real Nation of Islam led by Minister Farrakhan, and the Nation says the same thing. They say they are, instead, Black Muslims.
I've been alive 46 years and lived in various hoods the entire time. Somebody please tell me what the difference is, if you're not like me and willing to give up hours at a time just to make sure you know who is who?
Anyhow, everyone says the Nation and "Black Muslims" have nothing to do with each other, and I pray that's true. I need it to be true even as I have real disagreements with the Nation of Islam's beliefs, belief in ridiculous science-defying fantasies such as Yacub's Tale at the top of the list. But to date, I have never heard of the Nation of Islam being associated with hating and violence and brutality on anyone, all white folks' baseless and guilty projections whenever they think about the Fruit of Islam and potential violence notwithstanding. Never.
Except once: in connection with the alleged conspiracy to assassinate Malcolm X by members of the Nation of Islam, all who I suspect *thought* they were doing the right thing by ending the life of someone they perceived brought "dishonor" to the Nation.
Is the Bey crew going to claim the same thing? Chauncey Bailey was certainly not Malcolm X, after all. He was a reporter, and a media man. Yet he was also a staunch believer in serving the underserved community with news, from a Black perspective and, in his local Oakland way, a hero and visionary. So in that sense, he was indeed very much like our beloved El Hajj Malik al Shabazz: a needed voice for our community who was willing to work hard out of love for our people.
And yet Chauncey Bailey has now fallen at the hands of a young man who apparently had struggled long and hard, finding a "family" at the Your Black Muslim Bakery. A young man who, as so many youth do today, let his sense of absolute loyalties to the organization he felt had lifted him up get in the way of that common sense which says you don't go killing folks just because they say something you don't like, following a leader (Yusuf Bey, IV) of the same generation who, apparently, doesn't realize the difference between self-defense and violent thuggery when it comes to making an otherwise perfectly-legitimate political point about the ongoing exploitation of, and harm to, Black communities through the liquor store industry. A young man raised under the gang-mentality ethos, making it all about your crew, right or wrong, who said he was just "being a good soldier" when he killed Chauncey Bailey on Thursday. A young man who was, thus, willing to murder someone old enough to be his father in cold blood on the street trying to save "face" for those persons who he had embraced, because they had first embraced him.
History hasn't exactly repeated itself, but the parallels shouldn't be ignored, either.
I'm going to end with a personal rant, and plea, knowing that precious few will see it but it will make me feel better nonetheless. It has to do with all these newfangled "Black Power" organizations that don't emerge with their own identities, but vamp on the glorious institutions of our collective past.
This posing of young brothers behind the identities of legitimately-established Black Power organizations in order to now claim to speak for Black folks PISSES ME OFF. We have these folks associated with the Your Black Muslim Bakery, who claim they are "Black Muslims" but not part of the Nation of Islam. Yet they purposefully dress just like members of the Nation, to the point where if you could have copyrighted the trademark suit and bowtie back in the 1940's, the Nation could now sue these folks for trademark infringement. And we have the so-called "New Black Panther Party", reportedly founded by Nation of Islam reject the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad, an organization so scandalous in its hatred and ignorance that the Huey P. Newton Foundation, heir to the father of the REAL Black Panther Party, felt compelled to call the New Black Panther Party out publicly as posers and deem their beliefs antithetical to the values and beliefs of the Black Panther Party.
In other words, the youth have utterly, completely, misread the messages of the Old School revolutionaries, and appear to be torn schizophrenically between a genuine desire to help Black people and the the New School cultural values they were born and raised in, where rage and selfishness and pettiness are allowed to cause them to do and say Stupid Simplistic Shit. Stupid Simplistic Shit that sets the cause of all of us back.
(Case in point - what sane pro-Black organization would actually unconditionally *support* "No Snitching" when it is clearly resulting in the escalation of unsolved murders of Black women, men and children all over this country and people feeling imprisoned in their homes out of fear by thugs? Answer: None - yet the "New Black Panther Party" does, just so they can "stick it to the man" aka the cops. See NBPP Platform Point #7.)
These "new school" organizations, by failing to establish their legitimacy and through their tomfoolery, run the risk of delegitimizing for the larger society Black folks legitimate claims to freedom with their anger and rage and acting out as opposed to work and sacrifice and education of our communities. Because they don't have no sense.