Five years ago, Voice staff writer Chris Thompson, then with East Bay Express, had to go into hiding after publishing a hard-hitting series of reports on the Yusuf Bey family and its Oakland headquarters, Your Black Muslim Bakery. One of the people Thompson talked to for his stories was local journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was working on his own investigation of the Bey family – until he was murdered in broad daylight by a 19-year-old family follower last week. On Friday, more than 200 police officers raided the bakery.
Thompson's 2002 series exposed how Bey family members allegedly tortured a man for four hours after a real estate deal went bad, then attacked Oakland police officers who tried to stop them. The Bey family allegedly beat and intimidated countless black residents of West Oakland, and patriarch Yusuf Bey brutally raped and sodomized girls as young as thirteen. But Oakland's political establishment embraced the organization as the legitimate voice of disenfranchised black youth, and even offered family members a $1 million loan. Meanwhile, the mainstream press ignored years of alleged violence and fraud, even lionizing Yusuf Bey when he died in 2003.
After the East Bay Express published its series, the retaliation began. Someone smashed up the windows of its offices, and Thompson received numerous death threats. Men repeatedly tried to follow Thompson home, or staked out routes he took leaving the office. Eventually, Thompson was forced to go into hiding for several months.
Yusuf Bey and his followers spent thirty years building an empire of bakeries and security companies around Northern California, promising a way out of violence and drug addiction for the Bay Area's young black men. But as the following stories will show, they have also been accused of murder, rape, kidnapping, torture, intimidation, and fraud. If police officials truly have the goods on these men, Oakland might finally be able to close one of the most sordid and tragic chapters in its history.
See "The Sinister Side of Yusuf Bey's Empire" by Chris Thompson published by the Village Voice November 13, 2002.