The former headquarters of the Black Panther Party may seem an unlikely place for a thriving bakery, but given owner Kim Cloud's personal connection to the organization, it makes perfect sense.
"I used to be part of the Black Panthers' breakfast program as a kid," said Cloud, who was unaware of It's All Good Bakery's unique history until BPP founder Bobby Seale came in one day and mentioned it.
The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland in 1966 to protect its black residents from police brutality. The militant group eventually developed a Marxist ideology, called for the arming of black citizens and spread across several major American cities.
The organization's nationalism, revolutionary socialism and alleged criminal activity made it a constant target for state and federal law enforcement, but the Panthers provided Oaklanders with social services like legal aid, educational programs and the Free Breakfast for Children program in which Cloud participated.
Today, it is Cloud who serves food to the community from the Panthers' former HQ, a reversal that's not lost on the Oakland native who supports his hometown in part by hiring locally and without discrimination.
"We help everyone, regardless of your background, history, or where you come from. I've had people here that got released from prison for bank robbery, and they workin' my cash register," Cloud said.
"It's just a way of giving back to the community — staying positive in the community — because if someone hadn't given me a chance, where would I be today?"
Formerly, Cloud was a self-proclaimed "lil' bad kid" and rapper in the group K-Cloud and the Crew until his family convinced him to change paths and open the bakery in 1996. Among other family members, his brother, sister and daughter work alongside him today, and the recipes are 90 percent "mom's and grandma," Cloud said, including the shop's staple dessert.
"Like McDonald's is built on Big Macs, we built on 7-Up pound cakes," he said.
The bakery's glass cases are filled with an assortment of cakes and pies sold as single slices or whole desserts. Sharonda Grimes began working at the bakery last year and has nearly eaten her way through the menu. After trying everything but the coconut cake, "I can honestly say it's all good," she said.
Despite Cloud's confidence in the quality of his desserts, he said he's surprised by the level of success It's All Good Bakery has reached. Caterers, restaurants and retailers carry his goods and a steady flow of customers visit the shop daily. A Black Panther history bus tour even brings visitors from as far away as Europe and Japan.
"It's addictive," said Tony Brown, who drives over from Alameda. "I've been coming here for years." While Brown and another customer playfully bartered over a piece of German chocolate cake, a woman and a young boy discussed the Black Panther collage by the front door.
"It makes me feel proud," Cloud said. "A lil' kid from the streets of Oakland that didn't graduate from junior high, didn't graduate from high school, got a fifth-grade education, but been in business for 21 years."
It's All Good Bakery (5622 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way) is open Monday to Saturday from 8–7 and on Sunday from 9–5.