Shermann "Dilla" Thomas
CEO and Chicago Urban Historian, Mahogany Tours
Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is a fascinating blend of modern historian, cultural worker, and public employee. A life-long resident of Chicago’s south side Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, Dilla attended Calumet High but graduated from Olive-Harvey Middle College, an alternative high school located in a branch of the city colleges. He went on to study English and African American studies at Eastern Illinois University, where he was initiated into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. An employee of Chicago-area power utility ComEd since 2011, Dilla began making TikTok videos in an effort to bond with one of his seven children. Like every parent, Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is always on the lookout for ways to engage his children. So when his then eight-year-old daughter suggested a father/daughter collaboration to produce TikTok dance videos, he was both elated and perplexed. Elated at the opportunity to use social media as a medium to bond with his daughter; perplexed by the persistent thought that he might do something more substantive with his efforts to produce content. Perhaps due to a yeoman effort to keep his dance moves off the internets, Dilla came up with the novel idea of producing short videos focusing on the history of Chicago, a subject he has been independently studying for 20 years. The rest of the story is, as they say, history. Dilla’s followers now rest at 66,000 on the platform, and he has tens of thousands on Twitter and Instagram. He is blue check verified on all three platforms. His name on social media, @6figga_dilla, comes from his love of the employment trades, as he believes that you can reach monetary success (or six figures) there just as quickly as if you became a doctor or a lawyer. Although Dilla’s focus is aimed squarely at underexposed aspects of Black Chicago, his work continually reveals the rich tapestry of Chicago's overall history. Anchored in his background as son of a policemen, Dilla's philosophy is "Everything Dope about America comes from Chicago, the greatest city on earth."