Chicago’s Pakistani Community Remembers 9/11 Ten Years After

Tony Maldonado talks about religious diversity in the Rogers Park
neighborhood. A religious procession marches down Devon Avenue. (Video by Len Kody)

Fazal Asmani sells discount T-shirts and other dollar store fare out of a storefront on Devon Avenue. The bearded man leans back comfortably in a chair behind the cash register. He generously shares his political opinions but he refuses to have his picture taken.

“People here make something out of nothing,” he said, complaining about his neighbors.

Asmani said he is very conscious of who is seen coming and going from his shop.

The center of the Pakistani-Indian enclave in West Rogers Park lies at the intersection of Devon and Western Avenues.

Here mannequins dressed in colorful saris pose in many of the store windows and children could be seen playing cricket, rather than baseball, at the local sandlot. The area is as diverse as any Chicago neighborhood, with many Hispanics, African Americans, Orthodox Jews and Russians also living there.

Business owners and shopkeepers interviewed in Chicago’s Pakistani community say they are grateful for the opportunity to make a living and support their families in the United States. They say they are suspicious of strangers but not unkind to them.

Ten years after 9/11 this immigrant community endures a relationship of mixed gratitude and mistrust of their new American home.

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Some Have Mixed Opinions on Mixed-Income Housing on Chicago’s North Side

Jimmy Antonetti, who runs Old Town Liquors near the Cabrini-Green projects,has a simple suggestion for getting along in a mixed-income housing neighborhood: “Just be nice to everybody.” (Photo by Len Kody)

Henry Harris is a grizzled cop in his 60s. He saw a lot of action in the 1990s while he was a Tactical Officer for the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) police department before it was disbanded in 1999.

The Tact Team had jurisdiction over all the CHA housing developments. They were plain-clothes officers who were brought in as extra muscle when crime and violence spiked in any one area.

Harris’ patrol often included the Cabrini-Green public housing complex on Division Street on the Near North Side.

Although some of Cabrini-Green’s low-rise row houses remain, the last of the notorious high-rises were demolished in late 2010 as part of CHA’s Plan for Transformation to integrate their residents into mixed-income neighborhoods where – in theory, at least – market-rate buyers would live beside subsidized housing and CHA residents in a cohesive community.

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The Maxwell Street Market: Fading Chicago Landmark Fights Recession on Economy’s Front Lines

This story was written by Ben CraigLen Kody and Nicholas Moroni.

Bobbie Henry, of Chicago, began selling handmade jewelry and art pieces at the originalMaxwell Street Market in 1976. She relocated to the new Maxwell Street Market, on Canal, in 1994.­ Today, she has a booth on a prime spot at the market’s latest location, on Desplaines, just north of Roosevelt.

Henry’s next move is a commentary on the market’s current, diminished state and its uncertain future.

“Another thing that’s fading me out of this,” Henry explained, “is I’m going on eBay with most of my art.”

The present Maxwell Street Market is open Sundays, from 7am to 3pm, on a short stretch of Desplaines Street north of Roosevelt Road. But many of the people who bought and sold goods at the original market say that its current incarnation, sanctioned and organized by the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office of Special Events, hardly measures up.

“I was selling leather clothes and bags [on Maxwell, and on Canal]. I would make $3,000 every Sunday.” Henry said, “Now, I only make $200 or $300.”

Longtime Maxwell Street patron Frank Kam remembers the old market before “the University [of Illinois at Chicago] took over.” It had “the smell of polish sausage and onions floating around.”

Sal Villarreal, a Streets and Sanitation worker who works the present-day market, remembers going to the Maxwell Street Market when he was younger, in the 1970s, and said it was “a lot more livelier than this.”

“The feeling of the city is gone with this market,” Villarreal explained. “This is the smallest I’ve seen the market.”

“The other market was better,” he concluded.

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