Arab Americans left out of Chicago event, again
By Ray Hanania
When the United States government called on me during my sophomore year in college to fight in Vietnam, I didn’t wait until they drafted me. There was as chance they wouldn’t, but my number was around 65. So I went and enlisted for four years in the U.S. Air Force, ready to serve in any manner they felt best.
My father, my uncle and my brother also served in the U.S. Military, my dad an uncle fighting during World War II against the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific for nearly four years right after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Every year, I pay my taxes to cover the costs of our government, with money going to local, regional, state and federal agencies totaling tens of thousands of dollars annually.
When the country needs blood, I’m there. When the country needs support. I’m there. I vote. I raised my children to respect the U.S. Government, even if at times I disagree strongly with the misguided U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East. Yet, I speak out against extremism, racism and hatred.
There was no hesitation anywhere. So, would it be too much to expect that the local governments that are funded in part my by hard-earned tax dollars might show a little respect to me as an American Arab?
Once again, American Arabs, who have given so much to support this country, are being excluded again. And it’s hard not to think that maybe, just maybe, it is intentional. The irony is that it seems that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn’t care. The issue can’t be that Mayor Emanuel is Jewish or that he is the son of a man who was a member of an organization that had been declared a terrorist group , the Irgun, in Palestine in the 1940s. My wife and son are Jewish. Supposedly, Mayor Emanuel knows a few Arabs, doesn’t he? And he stood by President Clinton when Clinton pushed hard — some believe not hard enough — to get Israel to compromise with the Palestinians to sign a final peace accord.
That would be so undignified that a Mayor of a city of more than 3 million people has a thin-skin and can’t seem to overcome his personal fears and angers. American Arabs have reached out to Mayor Emanuel repeatedly. Our American Arab newspaper endorsed him for election in 2011, believing that he just might be the person to expand on the programs that his predecessor Mayor Richard M. Daley nurtured that helped American Arabs in the 22 years before. Everyone was shocked when he cancelled several American Arab events and didn’t help save the annual Arab Festival. It’s not like Chicago is drowning in commemorations for our long history in the city, since long before the 1893 World Columbia Exposition. We have nothing, one half block named in honor of an American Arab. Compared to every other ethnic group, we have literally nothing.
So what is it then, Mayor Emanuel? Why don’t you like Arabs? Does it contradict your claim of being someone who embraces diversity. Maybe you think having Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others around you is diversity enough? Maybe you really don’t know any Arabs? Maybe you had one bad experience where an American Arab mat have asked you a question you didn’t want to be asked?
You don’t have the courage to address the issue? You refuse to give us interviews. You refuse to meet with American Arab leaders. That’s kind of a disgraceful way for a father to bring up his own children, isn’t it? By teaching them that it is okay to be a politician responsible only to some of the public not all.
I thought you were a tough guy, Mayor. I heard you were a bulldog when it comes to politics. Maybe you’re just a wuss? Maybe you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen?
But you were “pleased to announce” this week that you have lined up 66 restaurants to participate at the five-day food and entertainment festival called Taste of Chicago to be held in Grant Park July 9-13. Taste 2014 will showcase Chicago’s “diverse culinary scene,” you claimed in your press release. Taste goers are “guaranteed” an endless “variety” of dining options to suit every palate from five-day restaurants to the popular one- and two-day Pop-Ups, as well as food trucks.
Well, it seems that it’s not as diverse as it should be. Chicago has more than 80,000 American Arabs living in the city. When you look at the population of the Chicago public school system, we are the largest ethnic group outside of Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Maybe diversity has a boundary, or a drop-off? There are another 100,000 Assyrians who are non-Arab Christians who speak the Arabic language and enjoy Arabian culture, traditions and food.
“As our culinary reputation has grown on the national stage, the Taste of Chicago continues to reflect the vibrant and diverse restaurant community of Chicago with and new, exciting culinary experiences and long- time favorites, ” you are quoted as saying.
Alongside the classic favorites, Taste of Chicago is excited to welcome 22 newcomers to the event in 2014. In all there are seven new five-day restaurants, eight new Pop-Ups and seven new food trucks.
New this year, Taste is pleased to announce a new partnership with Mariano’s to bring their culinary expertise to the popular cooking demonstration area, In the Kitchen with Mariano’s, and as a five-day restaurant. As Mariano’s continues its expansion in the Chicago market delivering the highest distinctive products, unequaled service and hospitality, this must-visit Taste destination is sure to leave customers embracing the Mariano’s philosophy of Shop Well, Eat Well, Live Well.
“We are thrilled to welcome Mariano’s as part of the Taste of Chicago this year,” said Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “This partnership is an ideal complement to our goal of presenting an array of high quality Chicago vendors. The Mariano’s brand has established a reputation of freshness, and shopping amenities like no other. We know our event guests will enjoy experiencing In the Kitchen with Mariano’s.”
Other new restaurants and food trucks are: The Big Cheese Poutinerie, Brasserie by LM, Brazilian Bowl Grill, Bridgeport Pasty, Chicago’s Dog House, Chicago Lunchbox, Gino’s Steak, Harold’s Chicken, Ms. Tittle’s Cupcakes, Kamehachi, Lawrence’s Fisheries, M Burger, Mama Mia, Mariano’s, Mayan Sol Latin Grill, Restaurant Veneno de Nayarit, The Savoy, Sol de Mexico, SpritzBurger, Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, Starfruit Cafè and Windy City Patty Wagon.
All vendors will offer signature items, as well as the popular “Taste Of” portions priced at $2.50 or less, allowing guests the opportunity to sample an even greater variety of items. Many will also include Humana
Healthier Choice selections for those seeking lighter options. Admission to the Taste of Chicago is FREE, and tickets for food and beverages can be purchased in strips of 12 tickets for $8.50.
“The Illinois Restaurant Association, celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2014, has been involved in the Taste of Chicago since its inception,” said Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “It has continued to be an amazing opportunity for restaurants to showcase our robust culinary scene, and has been a significant part of our organization’s history. Each year, the festival honors tradition while also evolving to reflect Chicago’s rich and ever-expanding dining culture. We’re pleased to offer attendees not only tried and true favorites, but also a taste of new vendors and a variety of diverse pop-up restaurants sure to become staples on the annual Taste tour.”
Whether craving the robust flavors found in African, American, Caribbean, Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Thai or Vietnamese cuisine – and more – Chicagoans and visitors won’t want to miss this year’s Taste!
Your release doesn’t mention Arab or Middle Eastern.
Taste of Chicago is produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in coordination with the Illinois Restaurant Association, which manages the food and beverage operation.
Here is the list of “Five-day” Restaurants
Abbey Pub & Restaurant, 3420 W. Grace St.
Bacino’s of Lincoln Park, 2204 N. Lincoln Ave.
Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave.
NEW – The Big Cheese Poutinerie, 3401 N. Clark
Billy Goat Inn, 1535 W. Madison St.
BJ’s Market & Bakery, 8734 S. Stony Island Ave.
Bobak Sausage Co., 5275 S. Archer Ave.
Caffe Gelato, 2034 W. Division St.
Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill, 300 W. 26th St.
NEW – Chicago’s Dog House, 816 W. Fullerton
Churro Factory, 3755 W. Armitage St.
Connie’s Pizza, 2373 S. Archer Ave.
Eli’s Cheesecake, 6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr.
Franco’s Ristorante, 300 W. 31st St.
The Fudge Pot, 1532 N. Wells
Gold Coast Dogs, 225 S. Canal St.
Iyanze, 4623 N. Broadway St.
Kasia’s Deli, 2101 W. Chicago Ave.
NEW – Lawrence’s Fisheries, 2120 S. Canal St.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, 805 S. State St.
NEW – M Burger, 100 W. Randolph
Manny’s Coffee Shop (returning after a 2-year hiatus), 1141 S. Jefferson St.
NEW – Mariano’s, Locations throughout Chicago
The Noodle Vietnamese, 2336 S. Wentworth Ave.
Oak Street Beach Café, 5700 S. Cicero Ave.
O’Briens Restaurant, 1528 N. Wells St.
Original Rainbow Cone, 9233 S. Western Ave.
Pazzo’s Cucina, 101 N. Wacker Dr.
Ricobene’s on 26th St., 252 W. 26th St.
Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs, 225 S. Canal St.
NEW – The Savoy, 1408 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The Smoke Daddy, 1804 W. Division St.
NEW – SpritzBurger, 3819 N. Broadway
Star of Siam, 11 E. Illinois St.
Tuscany, 1014 W. Taylor St.
Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant, 6232 N. Broadway St.
Pop-up Restaurants – presented by WTTW’s Check, Please!
NEW – Brasserie by LM, 800 S. Michigan Ave.
NEW – Brazilian Bowl Grill, 3204 N. Broadway
Garifuna Flava: A Taste of Belize, 2518 W. 63rd St.
Jin Ju, 5203 N. Clark St.
NEW – Kamehachi, 1531 N. Wells St.
NEW – Mama Mia, 3131 N. Central Ave.
NEW – Mayan Sol Latin Grill, 3830 W. Lawrence Ave.
Punky’s Pizza and Pasta, 2600 S. Wallace St.
NEW – Restaurant Veneno de Nayarit, 1024 N. Ashland Ave.
Riva, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
NEW – Sol de Mexico, 3018 N. Cicero
NEW – Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, 1560 N. Damen Ave.
Taco Joint, 158 W. Ontario
Beavers Coffee & Donuts
NEW – Bridgeport Pasty
The Cheesies Truck
NEW – Chicago Lunchbox
NEW – Gino’s Steak
NEW – Harold’s Chicken
NEW – Ms. Tittle’s Cupcakes
NEW – Starfruit Café
The Fat Shallot
The Salsa Truck
NEW – Windy City Patty Wagon
Taste of Chicago is presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and sponsored in part by Aquafina, Blue Bunny® Ice Cream, Bud Light, Chicago Tribune, Communications Direct, CLTV-Chicagoland’s Television, Eli’s Cheesecake Company, Fleet Feet Sports, Gallo Family Vineyards, Humana, Hyundai, Illinois Lottery, LaGrou Distribution System, Lipton Pure Leaf, Mariano’s, Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe, Olive Oils from Spain, Pepsi, Radio Disney AM 1300, Shoreline Sightseeing, Southwest Airlines, Ventra, WGN-Television, WTTW 11’s Check, Please, 93XRT, 101 WKQX and 103.5 KISS FM.
The 34th Annual Taste of Chicago is July 9-13 in Grant Park. (Taste of Chicago hours are 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Wed. – Fri.; 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sat. and Sun.) For more information on the FREE admission festival, call
312.744.3316; TTY: 312.744.2964 or visit tasteofchicago.us. Join the Taste conversation on Facebook at Taste of Chicago and follow us on Twitter, @TasteofChi2014.
About the Illinois Restaurant Association
Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois. The Association manages the food and beverage portion of Taste of Chicago for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Visit illinoisrestaurants.org and follow up Facebook and Twitter.
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.
Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. He began writing in 1975 publishing The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues as Special US Correspondent for the Arab News ArabNews.com, at TheArabDailyNews.com, and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday, the Orlando Sentinel, Houston Chronical, and Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
Click here to send Ray Hanania email.
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