Chauncey Bailey Project

Esperanza Johnson

Esperanza Johnson, Nov. 28, 2007 (D.RossCameron/OaklandTribune)
Esperanza Johnson, Nov. 28, 2007 (D.RossCameron/OaklandTribune)

Esperanza Johnson, Nov. 28, 2007 (D.RossCameron/OaklandTribune)

Esperanza Johnson is the birth name of one of the spiritual wives of Yusuf Ali Bey, founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery, but she is known by many others. Using the Johnson name, she and her current husband, Antron Thurman, have been linked to allegations of more than a half-dozen questionable real estate deals. No criminal charges have ever been filed, but several civil suits have charged fraud.

Johnson, a Compton native, was a young teen runaway in 1968 when she came to live among the Black Muslims and Bey, who was starting Mosque 26B in Oakland for the Nation of Islam.

She became known as Nora Bey, Noor Jehan Bey and several variants during her 20 years living and working at the bakery, from about 1968 to 1988. Throughout that time, Yusuf Bey sexually and physically abused her, she said in a deposition, and she bore him three children. At his direction, she became the legal guardian for Jane Doe 1 and 2, whose cases were part of 27 counts of sexual abuse of minors. For several years she testified she collected monthly welfare payments for the girls that she gave to Bey. At the time, Yusuf Bey already had a legal wife, Farieda Bey, and he was also living with a woman now known as Nisayah Yahudah.

“He beat me more than any other woman that he ever had,” she testified during the Jane Doe civil suit.

She left the bakery in 1988 after she started a cookie business and did not want to turn over profits to Yusuf Bey.

Johnson’s name also appears in several real estate transactions in the 1980s involving the bakery, as property changed hands without money between her and Farieda Bey.

In recent years, Johnson or her husband have been connected to more than a half-dozen real estate transactions that have forced owners from their homes, drained them of savings and equity, or otherwise left them poorer.

Among them: A 61-year-old disabled bus porter who lost the north Berkeley home he and his sister inherited, one that Thurman, then a Bey family member, successively sold for $850,000 less than two years later; and a couple who said Johnson talked into trading up from their Pittsburg house to a larger Antioch house — and ended up with a high-interest adjustable mortgage that ballooned after the first year, and no way to refinance without substantial penalty.

In the latter case, Johnson allegedly diverted $58,000 in equity to others, which diminished the downpayment on the Antioch house, and herself received a higher commission for the ballooning loan arrangement. Johnson and Thurman owe more than $1 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS, and more than $100,000 in credit union and credit card judgments.
In numerous judgments against her by banks and credit card companies, Johnson is identified as Nellie Bey, Nuri Bey, Noojean Bey and Noor Jehan Esperanza, a review of records by the Chauncey Bailey Project showed.

Johnson, whose state business license was supended more than a year ago for failure to pay taxes, also represented a client named Paulette Arbuckle in a failed bid to buy the bakery in November 2007 when it was being liquidated to pay creditors. The property was sold to NCK LLC for $1.05 million. Vital Life Services, which provides services to people living with HIV/AIDS, currently occupies the renovated space.

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