Askia Muhammad: A Recipe for Mayhem (Washington Post, 08-10-2007)
OAKLAND, Calif. (FinalCall.com) – The fatal shooting of a well known Black journalist Aug. 2 and the police raid of a community bakery the next day have shocked, but not paralyzed, this diverse community.
Chauncey Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post, was gunned down on his way to work. The next morning, a collaboration of law enforcement including the Oakland Police Department (OPD), S.W.A.T. team and other law enforcement agencies raided the Your Black Muslim Bakery (YBMB), linking them to the crime because Mr. Bailey, police stated, was working on an article regarding the establishment’s financial problems and information that would implicate Yusuf Bey, IV., its current head, in alleged criminal activity.
The evening of Aug. 3, police reported that 19-year-old Devaughndre Broussard, a handy-man at YBMB, confessed to the crime after weapons found during the pre-dawn raid confirmed their proposed link. But YBMB had been under surveillance by police and the raid of the bakery and several other affiliate locations was the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the bakery for alleged past murders, robberies and intimidation.
At an Aug. 4 press conference conducted shortly following the raid, approximately 60 people gathered at the murder scene with a coalition of politicians, clergy and activists to sooth wounds and take action. They honored Mr. Bailey’s community commitment and hard work; empowered community residents to not be afraid to speak out against any homicides; assured them support when they did so; and recognized the good works of YBMB.
Nation of Islam (NOI) Oakland, Calif. representative Min. Keith Muhammad, was among those attending the press conference who offered condolences to Mr. Bailey’s family from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the NOI, and, he acknowledged the pain experienced by the Bey family and those who have benefited from their work in the community.
“YBMB has a nearly 40 year history of helping poor, struggling communities, particularly young men, to change their lives, clean up their acts and become productive citizens under the leadership of Dr. Yusuf Bey (who died in 2003),” Min. Muhammad stated, referring to YBMB’s various bakeries, service outlets and security businesses. He commented that Dr. Bey’s and YBMB’s history included his 1994 bid for mayor and continued community activism.
In a recent interview with The Final Call, Min. Muhammad stated “As Black leadership who has already experienced the Counter Intelligence Program of the FBI, we should be cautious and wise before we rush to judgment against an institution that has a 40-year history.”
The Oakland Police Department (OPD) also held a press briefing. OPD Assistant Chief Howard Jordan informed the public that the investigation of YBMB did not involve Muslims under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the NOI, nor did it involve investigations based upon any faith tradition.
Dr. Diane Howell, Publisher of the Black Business Listings newspaper and producer of the Black Business Expo of Oakland told The Final Call that it is sad that violent death claimed Mr. Bailey, but believes that if his death moves to stop violence it is not in vain. She is concerned, however, that the news coverage be balanced and fair.
“There have been issues that have come up in the past regarding members of the bakery. The bakery has always been connected with a lot of rehabilitation of young Black men. I can’t say one way or the other that those issues are real, but I can say I was a witness to it (YBMB) being an institution in our community for many years and we watched as the bakery brought young men in and turned them around. I don’t want people to think that this is a den of violence, because that has not been the case,” Dr. Howell stated.
A resident, who asked to be identified simply as “Brian,” works in the community and frequented YBMB. He said that now the whole Bey family is in crisis and noted that now when he goes into the bakery, it just seemed too youthful minded. He explains “My experience outside of religion or anything organized is that when there is no adult, mentoring, no life experience, things could go south and it just seems like there was not enough life experience going on inside of the bakery as it was when their father was alive,” Brian said.
“There are so many scenarios and a lot of accusations, but the real question for me is what does the forensic evidence say? Mr. Bailey was killed Thursday morning and the raid happened Friday. Now today the news says they found the murder weapon and even a confession. That was quick. If they knew that he was targeted from their year-long investigation and didn’t do anything, was this raid on the troubled bakery their opportunity to cover their butts?” Brian positioned.
Mary Ratcliff, an attorney and editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, told The Final Call that the murder scene sits within sacred community space, within eyesight of an iconic, Black community center that everybody loves. “I don’t think anybody would pick that spot if they are in and knew this community. Their blaming it on people from the Black Muslim Bakery is suspicious, because the OPD and San Francisco Police Department were so deeply involved in persecution and COINTELPRO–they almost invented it, and they’re still under the leadership that is so accustomed to demonizing Black people,” Atty. Ratcliff stated.