Over 100 family, friends, and colleagues traveled from as far as Atlanta, Oregon, and Louisiana to Oakland, gathering on Saturday to honor editor, reporter, and Oakland native Chauncey Bailey. Nearly 15 years ago on August 2, Bailey was shot and killed at the corner of 14th and Alice streets in downtown Oakland. On Saturday, city officials, family members, and journalists from The Chauncey Bailey Project who covered his killing and the story he was working on, commemorated the slain journalist.
Bailey was one of five children; two of his three surviving siblings Mark Cooley and Lorelei Waqia, as well as his son Chauncey Bailey, Jr., spoke at the dedication ceremony. A plaque and official unveiling of Chauncey Bailey Way at Alice and 14th streets took place on Saturday. Many other family members were also in attendance. Waiqia said the large number of family members who traveled to share in the ceremony was “almost like a small family reunion.”
“He was very humble,” Waqia told Oakland Voices in an interview prior to the event. “He didn’t brag or anything. So we were all surprised at how well-known he was.” She said her brother kept to himself so she wasn’t fully aware of Bailey’s impact on the community in Oakland until after his death. “We were proud of Chauncey from where it started to where it ended—how much he appreciated and loved Oakland. He loved African Americans and wanted to really change the narrative of being lazy and drug infested. He really worked hard to lift that up.” Bailey focused much of his career on covering Black communities, culture, and stories.
Chauncey Bailey was born and raised in Oakland, and was a longtime journalist, including as a print newspaper reporter as well as holding on-air TV and radio jobs. He also spent some time as a journalist in Detroit. Bailey wrote for and worked at The Oakland Tribune for many years before becoming editor at The Oakland Post.
MCing for festivities was former Oakland City councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who introduced the initiative to honor Bailey in 2011 by renaming the section of 14th street from Oak street to Broadway to “Chauncey Bailey Way.” This is the street where Chauncey walked to work at his editor-in-chief job at The Oakland Post. The corridor will also be a dedication to the Black Arts Movement Business District.
During her opening remarks, Gibson McElhaney remembers meeting Chauncey as an undergraduate, which gave her a sense of possibility for the Black community. “He made me believe in the possibility in us and the greatness of our story as a people,” Gibson McElhaney said. “In the decades that I got to spend in public events with Chauncey, he never failed to leave me without an encouraging word.”
The shared sentiment at the event was an appreciation for the person Bailey was to each of person, both personally and professionally. Vice Mayor and councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan recalls being challenged in discussions when they met at Oakland’s Black-owned station Soul Beat TV, where Chauncey was an interviewer and commentator.
“Chauncey Bailey manifested the spirit of truth, the spirit of uplifting stories that had not been uplifted elsewhere, the spirit of uplifting community,” Kaplan said at the event, speaking to Bailey’s drive for reporting stories fairly, questioning contradictions to get to the truth, and telling stories that were often overlooked by mainstream media. “And so may we continue to uplift those principles as we honor his life. Make sure that his name, his legacy is uplifted and supported and that these stories are told.”
In attendance were councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas and Carroll Fife, as well as representatives from the mayor Libby Schaaf’s office, a representative from CA State Representative Mia Bonta’s office, and representatives of other elected officials.
Sharing remarks was Ray Connell, development director for the Holland Group, owners of the new building at the location where Chauncey was killed. The 14th Street building displays a commemorative plaque prominently featured with his likeness. The plaque was installed on the building at the corner in August 2021 on the 14th anniversary of Bailey’s death.
Paul Cobb, publisher and editor of The Oakland Post remembered the events leading up to and the day of Bailey’s’s killing. Bailey was killed in 2007 before his final story about the financial records of Your Black Muslim Bakery was published. Three men were convicted for his murder.
Known throughout his community for stories that highlighted the Black community, Cobb recalled Bailey’s ability to localize and “Blackenize every story,” finding a way to bring global stories that are impacted close to home and how the world impacts the Black community.
Chauncey Bailey was also known as a supportive colleague to fellow journalists.
The death of Bailey inspired local journalists to collaborate and continue his work through The Chauncey Bailey Project, modeled after The Arizona Project where journalists from different outlets collaborated to honor and continue the work of slain journalists.
On Saturday, speakers from The Chauncey Bailey Project included Bob Butler, KCBS reporter and Executive Director of Butler Media; Thomas Peele, investigative reporter for EdSource and lecturer at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism; and Martin Reynolds, one of the lead editors of The Chauncey Bailey Project and Co-Executive Director of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. (Oakland Voices is a program of the Maynard Institute).
Butler explained that The Chauncey Bailey Project was at times scary, but a project that he was proud to work on where he learned from his colleagues. He explained how the Bay Area journalism community is a small one that must support one another. “If we don’t care for each other, who is going to do it?” he asked.
A tearful Peele said that Bailey’s passion for journalism was like a religion and his death was a reminder that freedom of the press is written within the country’s constitution. “It is bestowed upon his memory and his family today, upon the history of our nation’s most cherished freedom, an indelible honor,” Peele said.
Reynolds spoke of Bailey as a mentor and called him “an anchor for coverage in the Black community.” Reynolds started as an intern at The Oakland Tribune when Bailey worked there, and recalls that Bailey took time out to mentor him. Reynolds spoke of Bailey’s passion for storytelling about the Black community, and about his final role before his death at the Black-owned newspaper, The Oakland Post. Mostly, he noted that “The most tragic thing that happened was that a son lost a father—a father who loved him.”
Prior to making his way to the podium, Bailey’s brother Mark Cooley told Oakland Voices the dedication was more than a street sign. “It’s kind of a symbol of a monument for his work,” Cooley said. “[This was] his opportunity to go into the Black community and find the heroes, find positive people doing positive things.” Cooley called his brother a hero: “It takes a lot more than just presence to go into a community to search and seek, especially wearing a suit. He wasn’t gonna stop being who he was.”
To close the ceremony, the street sign that was covered with African fabric from Mali, honoring one side of Bailey’s family heritage, was unveiled. The reveal of the street sign was also to Oakland, to journalists, and to all who walk down the path that Chauncey Bailey paved.