Black Muslim Bakery has had a long and checkered history

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An Oakland bakery with a cheery red sign out front — “Your Black Muslim Bakery” — was thrust into the criminal spotlight again Tuesday when police arrested one of founder Yusuf Bey’s sons in connection with vandalism to two liquor stores.

Bey created the bakery in 1968 and built a powerful enterprise based on baked goods, Muslim faith, local politics and, police say, strong-arm tactics.

For decades, members of Bey’s religious sect have been suspected of using violence and intimidation to secure their business interests, which include four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building across from the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue in northwest Oakland where many of Bey’s relatives and bakery workers live.

Bey died of colon cancer in October 2003 while awaiting trial on charges of raping a minor. A year earlier he had been charged with 27 counts in the alleged rapes of four girls under the age of 14. Prosecutors said they had DNA evidence to prove that Bey fathered five children with his victims, two of whom gave birth when they were 13. His followers have claimed he fathered more than 40 children.

Born J.H. Stephens in Greenville, Texas, Bey moved to Oakland with his family when he was 5, according to his biography.

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He joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 and was honorably discharged four years later. He worked in warehouses, enrolled in cosmetology schools and opened beauty salons in Santa Barbara and Berkeley. In the early 1960s, he began following the Islamic studies of the late Elijah Muhammad.

He moved back to Oakland, set up a bakery like his father before him and began spreading his religious beliefs. Bey formed his own Black Muslim group, though it never was affiliated with the Nation of Islam or its mosque in East Oakland, said mosque spokesman David Muhammad.

Over the years, Bey and his followers had a love-hate relationship with the city: providing work and housing for convicts and running for political office while allegedly entangling themselves in some notorious crimes.

Bey’s followers have been accused of assaulting people with whom they had religious or business differences, and such stories have circulated in Oakland for decades.

In 1994, members of the organization allegedly beat an Oakland man with a police officer’s heavy-duty flashlight and threatened to kill the white police officers who came to investigate.

The same year, Bey ran for mayor and received 5 percent of the vote, and his 21-year-old son Akbar was shot and killed outside an Oakland nightclub. At the time, his father said the death was over “nothing important.”

Bey was not afraid to espouse unpopular opinions. In the 1990s, he criticized Alameda County social workers for placing too many black children with white foster parents who live outside Oakland and vowed to recruit black parents to take troubled children.

He riled gays and prompted the Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco to pull his bakery products when he said on his weekly cable TV show that he didn’t want gay teachers to school his children.

He claimed that in the Middle East, homosexuals were beheaded, but later he said he was not advocating violence against gays.

When Oakland’s homicide rate surged in 2002, Bey helped formed a grassroots outreach team called “Black Men First,” which sent pastors and activists and Muslims to the streets at night for one-on-one conversations with black men entangled in criminal street life. His efforts brought national attention, but soon after he was forced out of the group.

Bey turned himself in to police later that year after he was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl two decades earlier. The victim, then 34, told police she had had sex with Bey in 1981 and had given birth to his child the next year. DNA evidence confirmed that Bey was the father of the woman’s child.

Barely four months after Bey died of colon cancer, his hand-picked successor to run the bakery chain and other businesses disappeared. Six months later, authorities found Waajid Aljawwaad’s decomposing body near a trail in the city’s foothills.

Last month, another of his sons, Antar Bey, 23, was shot and killed as he filled his car’s gas tank in North Oakland.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
San Francisco Chronicle, USA
Nov. 30, 2005
Meredith May, Jim Herron Zamora

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This post was last updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 9:32 AM, Central European Time (CET)