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How Official Oakland Kept the Bey Empire Going

The troublesome history of Oakland's most prominent Black Muslims -- and the political establishment that protects them.

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Blood & Money
Part Two: The Influence

In March 1994, Black Muslim leader Nedir Bey allegedly tortured a man for several hours, beating him with a police flashlight and jamming the barrel of a gun inside his mouth. When Oakland police arrived to investigate the incident, Bey's associates mounted an organized attack in which mob leader Basheer Muhammad allegedly rallied his troops by shouting that white officers would soon die. How did the Oakland Tribune play the story? By burying it on page A-13. And what did the San Francisco Chronicle write? Nothing.

In May 1994, mayoral candidate Yusuf Bey organized a massive hate rally that featured disgraced Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Muhammad ranting about the "no-good, hook-nosed Jews sucking our blood." Yusuf Bey heaped praise upon his guest speaker and scolded Jews who objected to Muhammad's appearance. How did the East Bay Express respond? By running a profile of Bey later that summer that treated him as a thoughtful statesman, speaking of his "life devoted to the development of economic self-reliance for Oakland's African-American community."

After years of horrific allegations of torture, beatings, and anti-Semitism on the part of the Bey "family," what does state Senator Don Perata think of Yusuf Bey? "The leadership you provide should be an inspiration to all concerned over the city's future," Perata wrote Bey in August. You can read the senator's words for yourself; his framed, handwritten letter sits atop the pie case in the lobby of Bey's bakery.

When it comes to indulging the racism and alleged crimes of Yusuf Bey and some of his associates, there's plenty of blame to go around. For two decades, ugly stories about the Beys have circulated throughout the city of Oakland, but no one in a position of power has spoken up about it. Instead, white and black leaders alike have embraced Bey as a pillar of the African-American community. Whether due to cowardice, ignorance, or Machiavellian realpolitik, government officials and media outlets have chosen inaction and silence -- a choice with terrible ramifications for some Oakland residents.

Tarika Lewis is one of them. During the late '70s and early '80s, she called police, lawyers, county child welfare bureaucrats, and ministers all over the East Bay, warning that Yusuf Bey had a dark secret that must be exposed. Bey, she claimed, was doing horrible things to a little girl being held captive in one of the numerous homes owned by his female associates. But no one listened.

Today, when Lewis hears ministers and politicians praise Bey's work for the community, she chokes on their kind words. "I see how gullible some people are," she says. "I see how gullible I was, how young and dumb I was."

If what Lewis claims is true, the entire Oakland political establishment is tainted. Politicians, bureaucrats, reporters, and businessmen have not condemned Bey and his associates but rewarded them -- with money, protection, prestige, and lucrative contracts. A two-month examination of court and government records, as well as dozens of interviews, has revealed the following:

* Tarika Lewis, the stepmother of two young girls who Yusuf Bey allegedly beat and raped, claims to have spent at least five years begging law enforcement agencies and child welfare officials to save her stepdaughters -- to no avail.

* Two senior Oakland police officers claim that their department looked the other way as Bey family associates exacted vigilante justice in certain North Oakland neighborhoods.

* Officials with the downtown Marriott Hotel and the Oakland Ice Center, both of which were built with city funds, have employed the Bey family's security company Universal Distributors in spite of its apparent lack of a state-issued security license. Officials at the Port of Oakland even recommended the company as their top pick to provide security at Oakland International Airport.

* During the sentencing phase of Nedir Bey's 1995 trial on charges that he beat and tortured a man, Bey produced letters of support from Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and City Councilmember Larry Reid.

* One year after Nedir Bey pleaded no contest in that trial, the city of Oakland lent him $1.1 million to start a home health care business. After the city complained that Bey misspent the funds on personal perks and overinflated salaries, Bey allegedly closed the business secretly and sold equipment pledged as collateral. Not one cent has ever been repaid.

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