The Killing of a Journalist

Voice staff writer Chris Thompson not only knew the Oakland reporter shot dead by a follower of the Yusuf Bey family, he'd also incurred the family's wrath

 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.


Chris Thompson's Other Stories on the Yusuf Bey Family

How Official Oakland Kept the Bey Empire Going
The troublesome history of Oakland's most prominent Black Muslims ó and the political establishment that protects them.
Published: November 20, 2002

Blood & Money: Endgame
Even in his death, Yusuf Bey is lionized as an elder statesman rather than branded as a thug. Meanwhile, his victims reflect.
Published: October 8, 2003

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.

This story was originally published in the East Bay Express on November 13, 2002.

The Sinister Side of Yusuf Bey's Empire
The troublesome history of Oakland's most prominent Black Muslims — and the political establishment that protects them.
by Chris Thompson

Olasunkanmi Onipede should know a little something about torture. An immigrant from Nigeria, he left behind a country that by 1994 had fallen under the iron hand of General Sani Abacha, who unleashed a plague of mass arrests, kangaroo courts, and the practice of lashing political prisoners until their backs were open wounds. But now that he was safe upon the shores of America, Onipede must have thought he would never encounter anything like that again. Then he met Nedir Bey.

On March 4, 1994, Onipede pulled his Hyundai into the courtyard of an apartment complex at 530 24th Street in Oakland. He was here on business: A man named Larry Chin had just bought a house Onipede had renovated, and some of Chin's friends weren't too happy about the markup and asked to meet him for a little talk. Onipede wasn't clear what the problem was -- after all, Chin had never complained about the deal -- but he and business partner Olen Grant dutifully climbed the stairs and knocked on the door of a dingy second-floor unit, located far back from the street, safe from prying eyes. When the door opened, five men in bow ties stared back at them.

The men were Black Muslims, members and employees of the Yusuf Bey "family," a loose collection of entrepreneurs and reformed ex-cons who have built a patchwork of businesses and nonprofits throughout the city of Oakland. Onipede and Grant made their way through the crowd and sat on a couch in the living room. As the two visitors fidgeted on the couch, men walked in and out, talking among themselves. Finally, Onipede later testified, the door opened, and Nedir Bey stalked into the room. Bey is the public face of Oakland's most prominent Black Muslim organization, the man who lobbies the City Council, orchestrates media events, and runs interference for the group's elusive leader, Yusuf. At six feet and 220 pounds, Nedir is a large man with a shaved head, a bow tie, and a glib tongue. But he was in no mood for diplomacy this afternoon.

According to Onipede, Bey took out a Beretta 9mm handgun, slid it into his shoulder holster, and told Grant to follow him outside. Onipede's blood ran cold when Bey allegedly pointed at him and issued his next order:

"He said ... that if I leave that building there, they should break all my bones."

"Here we are, the greatest people that ever walked the earth. Strongest man that ever walked the planet. Everything you see, we are the originators of this."

-- Yusuf Bey, True Solutions, February 2001

Yusuf Bey’s Oakland Black Muslims occupy a special place in the city’s imagination. From their headquarters at Your Black Muslim Bakery on San Pablo Avenue, Bey and his numerous “spiritually adopted” sons have spent thirty years projecting an image of upright, disciplined self-reliance, reforming ex-cons and building businesses. Bey has nurtured a sense of pride and self-respect among his followers — a commodity that often seems in short supply in Oakland.

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