Sunday, August 12, 2007

Essay 4299

From The New York Times…


Black Pillar Dissolves in Debt and Unrest


OAKLAND — A federal judge’s order to liquidate the assets of Your Black Muslim Bakery will shutter one of this city’s black nationalist institutions, a step called long overdue by many members of the clergy and community activists.

“They had veered far, far away from the basic tenets of the Muslim faith,” said Amos C. Brown, senior pastor at the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. “They had become agents and perpetrators of terror and vigilantism.”

The bankruptcy ruling late Thursday to pay off some $900,000 in debt and back taxes came a week after the killing of a local journalist, Chauncey W. Bailey Jr., a case in which a handyman employed by the bakery is a prime suspect.

Mr. Bailey, who had been investigating the bakery’s finances for a newspaper story, was shot at close range in daylight in downtown Oakland on Aug. 2.

Yusuf Bey opened the bakery, famous for its bean pies, in the late 1960s, becoming a well-regarded figure by relentlessly advocating black self-reliance.

Mr. Bey and his descendants drew their inspiration from Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader. Several black Muslim clerics in the Bay Area recall that Mr. Muhammad excommunicated Mr. Bey in the early 1970s, but the reasons were murky.

“They claimed Islam but they were absolutely not Muslims,” said Delmont Y. Waqia, the director of Islamic studies at Al Salaam mosque in Oakland and Mr. Bailey’s brother-in-law, noting that Mr. Bey did not worship at any mosque.

Still, Mr. Bey copied the Nation of Islam in its ideology and appearance, the men wearing suits with bow ties and the women headscarves. The slice of the group’s creed he emphasized was that African-Americans had to make their own heaven on earth — there was no afterlife — with proof of righteousness embodied in a good business and a Cadillac, other Muslim leaders said.

His message was welcomed, particularly given Oakland’s role as a font of black nationalist organizations like the Black Panthers.

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