In many African American neighborhoods in Chicago, tension simmers between black customers and Arab corner store owners. The tension is often around this stereotype: outsiders doing business in low-income neighborhoods. But who are the Middle Eastern immigrants who set up shop in black communities, where their corner stores thrive, in part because the areas lack grocery stores. One Arab businessman talks about his relationships with his customers, and Chicago.
Mohammad Bani Yassin co-owns Mali Foods on West 69th Street. He sells Kool-Aid and candy, cereal and cigarettes, T-shirts and toilet paper. No liquor because it’s against his Muslim faith.
Yassin is stocky with a thick mustache. He wears a light blue workman’s jacket. Seven days a week he works behind the glass-encased counter.
In the background, Yassin, a native of Jordan, listens to the news in Arabic.
Yassin says it’s not a hard life in America.
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