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A History of Violence By: Lloyd Billingsley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A handyman working for the Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland has confessed to the shotgun slaying of Chauncey Bailey of the Oakland Post. Bailey, 57, was working on a story about the bakery, under investigation by police in connection with assaults, a kidnapping, two homicides, and a case of torture. The slaying has drawn national attention but with little attention to the back story: the way Oakland politicians, police and the media favored the Black Muslim bakery and its founder Yusef Bey.

Bey founded the bakery in 1968, followed by other business and a school. The efforts were initially well received but trouble soon followed. Beginning in the 1970s, Bey showed an eye for the ladies under the age of 14, including his own daughters. He avoided prosecution and courted favors with local officials, but in 2002 he was charged with 27 felony counts of rape and lewd conduct.

Yusef Bey died in 2003 while those charges were pending. His demise launched a power struggle and two of his successors were murdered. Bey had made a name for himself with hate-filled preaching on a local cable show, where Chauncey Bailey also worked. The two often clashed and Bey supporters phoned in threats to Bailey's show. In similar style, the East Bay Express was vandalized after a series of articles on the Black Muslim Bakery and Bey family.

"How Official Oakland Kept the Bey Empire Going," a November 20, 2002, East Bay Express story by Chris Thompson, outlines longtime favoritism toward the Bey family by local politicians, police and the media.

"For two decades, ugly stories about the Beys have circulated throughout the city of Oakland, but no one in a position of power has spoken up about it," Thompson wrote. "Instead, white and black leaders alike have embraced Bey as a pillar of the African-American community. Whether due to cowardice, ignorance, or Machiavellian realpolitik, government officials and media outlets have chosen inaction and silence – a choice with terrible ramifications for some Oakland residents."

The article outlines how the Bey family, masters at mau-mauing local officials, got lucrative government loans and special treatment. Police looked the other way when Bey's Muslims went on "cleansing" sprees. The Beys garnered praise from state senator Don Perata despite a 1994 rally featuring Khalid Muhammad. The family established what amounted to a miniature Taliban state but as far as the Oakland establishment was concerned, they could do no wrong. Meanwhile, the "terrible ramifications" of indulging this crime family have been mounting, and journalist Chancey has become the most high-profile victim.

Devaughndre Broussard, who confessed to police that he shot Bailey, worked at the Black Muslim bakery. He stalked the journalist on the way to work and gunned him down with a double-barreled shotgun police have since recovered. The seven men arrested include Yusef Bey IV, son of the bakery's founder. Police raided the establishment, where they found dead rats on the roof and rat excrement inside, along with weapons.

The homicides of transients Michael John Wills and Odell Roberson, police believe, may be part of "cleansing" operations in the area of the bakery. There squads of young men have trashed stores that sell liquor, including one owned by Abdulla Dabashi, a native of Yemen. These groups terrified neighbors by firing automatic weapons into the air, in the style of Beirut.

Reporters pressed Oakland police as to why they had not moved quicker against the bakery. Howard Jordan, assistant chief, told the New York Times that his department's resources were "very thin" and, "We weren't just waiting around." But the department failed to act in time to save Chauncey Bailey.

The case bears similarities with that of H. "Rap" Brown the Black Panther leader who converted to Islam and changed his name to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. He opened a mosque in Atlanta and indulged "cleansing" sprees, like the Bey family in Oakland. In March, 2000, Fulton county deputy sheriff Ricky Kinchen, who like Chauncey Bailey is black, served a warrant to al-Amin, who gunned Kinchen down and wounded his partner. Al-Amin is now serving a life sentence with no parole. On August 3, he was transferred from a Georgia prison to federal custody.

In 1967, Brown made a name for himself by saying that violence was "as American as cherry pie." Forty years later, they've taken violence to another level in Oakland, where a journalist can get killed for writing about a Muslim bakery.

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of From Mainline to Sideline, the Social Witness of the National Council of Churches, and Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s.

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