Three on Chauncey Bailey: Wanda Sabir, Vern Cromatie, Marvin X,
Greetings Marvin and Vern, this is my response to your essays.
By Wanda Sabir
I didn’t hate Yusef Bey, certainly not the members of the community, and even though I was raised in the Nation of Islam—Temple 26 in San Francisco, I didn’t understand all the guns and bravado and threats and exhorting, but I had a few friends who were members and former members of Your Black Muslim Bakery; one brother had graduated from law school but couldn’t pass the bar. He’d been put through school by Dr. Bey. A sister friend had a child with him. He liked high yella women, and she fit the bill. I also had a student one summer in an English class who was best friends with Bey’s son who’d been shot and was suffering a slow death in a hospital bed. Back home after being away at college, she spoke about cheering her friend up who was threatening to take his life.
When a friend told me about her clients who’d been raped by Dr. Bey and the threats that met their parents’ attempts to report the crimes, I stopped shopping at his bakery for years. My brother said Bey might be a criminal, but most of the people we transacted business with probably were. So after a few years, I began to buy fish sandwiches again. I still wondered when he ran for mayor, why the black clergy embraced him. How could a known child molester and rapist possibly be good for the City of Oakland?
The man’s empire reminded me of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and Charles "Chuck" Dederich Sr.’s Synanon. All three of these communes had charismatic leaders with noble aspirations. But as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The organizational structures which they founded did much good especially for young men and women, single parents, especially single female heads of household who need help raising their children. A former member of Peoples Temple, who escaped the murders in Jonestown, said the community Jones’ founded was wonderful, it was the man who was mad. Perhaps it’s the same with Bey. Perhaps madness is a casualty of power—look at George W. Bush. Perhaps it’s as Marvin X suggests errors of youth.
Peter Pan’s trouble in Neverland as leader of the Lost Boys was that he was too young. He had no guidance. No matter how much children protest and act as if they know how to run things, like their lives—clearly such is not the case. The demise of the Your Black Muslim Dynasty is because it lacked institutional vision and guidance, the kind that comes with maturity, and maturity is not intelligence, it’s wisdom. Maturity denotes an ability to weigh options against one’s experiences and another’s experiences to develop a problem solving mechanism that doesn’t always dictate action. Energy at rest is still energy. By this I mean, inaction is action, and sometimes, when one is angry or frustrated, inaction—a pause until clear thought is possible is the best response to ideas which shake one’s equilibrium.
Words are powerful and just like bullets words are not retractable once they are spoken or written. Words can kill. I think of Edsel Matthews’ heart attack when he found out he was loosing Koncept’s Cultural Gallery offices and was evicted. However, unlike bullets, one can negotiate when words are fired off tongues, leave lips, fly off the edges of keypads or Internet signals in cyberspace.
Unlike bullets words contain buffers. Unlike bullets they aren’t random, and the specificity of the language allows one to address another person, even one, one might see as antagonist or enemy. With knowledge and reason the battle is waged and the best argument wins out when all is equal, when all is fair. The problem with bullets is that the conversation is happening in one person’s head, the antagonist’s. The target might be aware of the danger, but even if any of the nine persons shot between August 2 and August 5 in Oakland knew they were the object of scorn, none had the opportunity to address this fact whether earned or misguided.
The best marksman is nothing compared to the most articulate orator. Look at Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, Boukman and Fatiman, James Baldwin, Ida B. Wells, Fanny Lou Hammer, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Marcus Garvey—they made the most violent men among them stay their hands even though eventually when the battle moved from street politics to national policies the government had many of them killed; this does not mean that their weapon of choice—words, was not, in the short and long run, the stronger of the two.
Remember when wars were waged on the fields in combat? Remember when soldiers returned home traumatized by memories of those they’d slaughtered in hand to hand combat? Remember when war was dirty, a soldier actually could and did get bloody? Now the battle is sterile. Murderers often don’t even touch the person killed—the gun an extension of their hand. It’s a wildcard—the bullets free agents without allegiance. Bullets don’t love anyone. Bullets honor no one.
This is the analogy between bullets and words. Language is personal. Words bring the combatants face to face. The goal, understanding if not victory. The victory is understanding that in the case of black on black violence, African people have the same enemy, and the feud predates all of us.
It’s scary talking. Many people especially young people are so choked up they no longer speak, they grunt like animals. The easier response to terror or insulted valor is violence. Violence is the non-thinking response. Violence is the default act. Violence has become like breathing; one doesn’t have to think, the autonomous nervous system keeps the systems functioning for the health and well-being of the body like any well made program.
So what about an autonomous system where violence is breath? When it’s connected to the lymphatic system and circulatory system – the beating heart and the immune system?
What this means is the body is conditioned to act without thought. If thoughts were a part of the schema then violence would be replaced with words, the best mediating tool, the true blood of a healthy nation. We are a nation within a nation. I wonder how many black youth know this?
I was listening to Democracy Now and KPFA this morning and last week. They were playing work from the archives dating back 50 years. This morning Paul Robeson was speaking about how he ended up in Britain, that it’s a different kind of racial violence, while James Baldwin spoke about how people live up to one’s expectations of them, especially if one respects the other’s opinion of oneself.
Thursday’s murder of Chauncey Bailey and the other less famous youth killed in the subsequent days over the same weekend, (seven in total) is a trend we need to halt before anymore people are killed whether that is over an article about to be written or archived or a random response to random history lessons one never learned in school.
“Without Sanctuary” is a catalog of photographs of lynchings in America. I am developing a course on the Poetics of Rap looking at Tupac Shakur’s body of work and the politics or aesthetics of the genre, genre meaning discourse community and the language of such discourse. Is what’s going on in Oakland, just a reflection on the language of such discourse or is the violence a symptom of the miseducation of black youth and a culture where children no longer have words at their disposal? When did we start lynching each other?
Baba Hugh Masekela spoke about the war in Dafur yesterday at a free concert at Stern Grove in San Francisco. He said Dafur is a global catastrophe. Kids are getting killed on the streets of Soweto and Johannesburg everyday also. After the wonderful concert, people mingled and were feeling hopeful and powerful and joyous. I saw friends, among them Greg Bridges who asked me if I’d heard about Sister Ayanna’s sons, who’d been shot the night before, one killed. I told him no. Sister Ayanna and Brother Shaka had already lost one of their sons not two years ago, now two shot and one dead?! Khatari Gant was sitting with his brother and friend in a van near his house when someone shot multiple rounds into the driver’s side of the vehicle killing him and wounding the others.
His parents are former members of the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Afrika, so I know Khatari led an articulate life. Given the chance, he might have been able to resolve the conflict. Given the chance, but for some words are too risky—one word could change one’s life. It could change the direction of one’s life and for many, this is scary. This may be the reason why the language of bullets has taken the place of words as tools for liberation.
In a message dated 8/6/2007 10:23:32 AM Pacific Daylight Time, J. Vern Cromatie writes:
Once again, you have demonstrated great insight about a crucial problem which has plagued Black social movements since the days of Marcus Garvey, namely brothers killing brothers over disagreements. History indicates that Noble Drew Ali, a leader of the Moorish American Temple was killed by brothers; James W. H. Eason, a former leader of the UNIA, was killed by brothers; and Malcolm X, a former leader of the Nation of Islam, was killed by brothers. We also know that the infamous split in the Black Panther Party led to the death of Samuel Napier and Robert Webb being killed by brothers.
As you have said, the time has come for brothers with opposing points of view and from opposing parties to sit down to reason together and not let things get out of hand and break down into Black-on-Black violence. It is clear that Black men and Black women with social consciousness must practice nonviolence with each other and one another as we interact and address the issues of the day. As Black men and Black women, we must learn to agree to disagree on some issues and not want to kill each other and one another over a disagreement. To do otherwise is to continue to perpetuate the slave mentality which reduced proud African people into self-hating caricatures who believed the folk saying that, "A N----- ain't s---."
Clearly, we must learn from the mistakes of the past and build a new future for our people that will allow the descendants of Chauncey Bailey and the descendants of Yusef Bey to be able to have a viable future inside the belly of Amerikkka.
Yours in the struggle,
J. Vern Cromartie
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
(In Memory of My friend, Chauncey Bailey)
By Dr. M (aka Marvin X)
How does it feel to get caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? How does it feel when a friend is murdered and the suspected murderers are someone you know as well, ever since they were children. It is a feeling of immense sadness, grief and disappointment. It is a feeling of guilt even, for we wonder why we didn't mediate the situation, force the opposing parties to sit down to reason together before things got out of hand, before a brother had to join the ancestors, as in the case of our friend and colleague, fellow writer and journalist, Chauncey Bailey. Yes, Chauncey was seeking the truth to tell us all, but it is possible he was working on the wrong story, or maybe the wrong aspect of the story, if it is true he was working on a story about the financial situation of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a family business that appears to be in the process of having its doors closed, the result of criminal activity, tax liens and creditors, but more importantly, moral issues, beginning with its founder, the late Dr. Yusef Bey, who was a friend that worked with me on many community projects, someone I miss dearly, though I am thankful I never had to experience his dark side, and I am genuinely sorry for those who did, especially the children. He fathered 43 children and it appears the sins of the father have visited some of them. One son was killed trying to rob dope dealers, another killed when someone car jacked him, and the current CEO, Yusef Bey IV, faces multiple charges, although someone else at the bakery has confessed to killing Chauncey because of his past articles and planned story on the financial situation. The suspect was a handyman at the bakery, so we are supposed to believe handymen are capable of plotting assassinations afro solo.
But as per Chauncey, the financial situation should not have been a priority, rather the essential and critical story should have been about how this family, especially its children and mothers, could be healed from its shame and trauma, and the business saved as a community asset. Tell me where one can find a loaf of bread baked by black people in the Bay or across these United Snakes of America. Where can just released inmates from jails and prisons find immediate employment, housing and food? Where can broken down dope fiends get their lives together and never look back. Where can the community find the example of a successful black business? I know the media loves sensationalism, but the positives of YBMB outweigh the negatives, and this is where Chauncey went wrong and it cost him his life, and with the bakery closed, it will affect many other lives, including the community in general so desperate for natural food and examples of do for self enterprises, i.e., independently operated businesses, especially family run so that children can see a future beyond a wage slave job at a white supremacy corporation more interested in outsourcing for cheap labor rather than securing a future for American workers of any ethnicity.
So we have here a double tragedy that approaches the best Shakespearean drama: what happens when the king dies or struggle for succession rights (rites), and what happens when the court jester or truth seeker seeks too much truth, especially from those who are supposed to be champions of truth, but have corrupted truth due to flaws in their moral character, resulting in the virus infecting the king's children to the degree that they self destruct, demolishing the kingdom, destroying all the good.
But is this the end of the drama or merely a necessary phase, since there are 43 children and perhaps the good children are yet to be seen and heard, especially the women who may now be forced to the front of the line to take authority over certain posts of whatever remains.
We love you Chauncey, we love you Dr. Bey--maybe ya'll can work it out in heaven.
Now this drama has villains more sinister than even the murderers, for as James Baldwin said of those who killed Malcolm X, "The hand that pulled the trigger didn't buy the bullet." Isn't it strange that with a plethora of unsolved murders in Oakland, this murder was solved in less than 24 hours--Chauncey was killed around 7:30am, by 5am the next morning, the police had a confession and murder weapon, as though they knew exactly where to go to apprehend the killer. Is it likely they knew beforehand what was planned, especially since they had the suspects under surveillance for over a year. Couldn't they have prevented Chauncey's murder--perhaps they too wanted him dead since he was also investigating police corruption. There is no doubt they had undercover agents and/or snitches at the bakery who kept them abreast of planned activities. The killer himself could have been a police agent. These are possibilities any serious thinker should consider.
Again, I want to say that the community failed the Bey family for decades by not treating them with healing love, especially after they gave so much to the community. Their isolation only deepened their trauma and of course things go from bad to worse. The children were traumatized but left to drift into madness and psychosocial pathology. When I spoke at the bakery a few months ago, they were happy and elated that adults had come by to visit their meeting, for nearly all of those present were young people associated with the bakery. They were even happier to discover the other adults at the meeting were my longtime associates and friends of their father. They let us know how pleased they were that we took the time to visit with them. We must reach out to the Bey children because they are our own. Their negative actions have now impacted the community in a big way--for Chauncey was no ordinary Negro but a very special guy doing a very necessary work. And as the community mourns his passing and heals, let us not forget the children at the bakery who need much healing as well--and certainly they contributed much good to this community and therefore deserve our unconditional love.
--Dr. M (aka Marvin X)
Dr. M (aka Marvin X) is author of the just released HOW TO RECOVER FROM THE ADDICTION TO WHITE SUPREMACY, A PAN AFRICAN 12 STEP MODEL FOR A MENTAL HEALTH PEER GROUP, BLACK BIRD PRESS, 2008, 111 PAGES. Foreword by Dr. Nathan Hare, afterword by Ptah Allah El (Tracey Mitchell), $19.95. Black Bird Press, POB 1317, Paradise CA 95967. Available at De Lauer's News, 14th and Broadway, Oaktown