Winner of the Chicago Reader’s annual Best of Chicago poll in 2021 for having the top Chicago TikTok and Chicago Twitter accounts, Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is a public historian who is changing the game. Dilla, as he is affectionately called, is a fascinating blend of modern historian, cultural worker and public employee.
A lifelong resident of Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on the South Side and the son of a policeman, Thomas attended Calumet High School, but graduated from Olive-Harvey Middle College, an alternative high school based in a branch of the City Colleges of Chicago. He went on to study English and African American studies at Eastern Illinois University, where he was initiated into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
An employee of Commonwealth Edison since 2011, Thomas began making TikTok videos to bond with one of his seven children. What started as a way of engaging youth has led to his becoming an award-winning historian and social-media influencer in Chicago and beyond. Public Narrative has named Thomas as the 2022 Studs Terkel Uplifting Voice and Choose Chicago has named him the 2022 Tourism Ambassador of the Year. He received the 21st Century Award from the Chicago Public Library for his recent achievements in promoting Chicago to the world.
Thomas has been independently studying Chicago history for more than 20 years, and his candid and truthful reflection of that history can be felt in his videos and presentations. His TikTok followers now have reached 95,000, and he has tens of thousands on Twitter and Instagram. 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 had become a doctor or a lawyer.
His focus is aimed squarely at underexposed aspects of Chicago, while expressing it from a Black perspective at times. His work reveals the rich tapestry of Chicago's history. Dilla’s philosophy is “Everything dope about America comes from Chicago, the greatest city on Earth.”
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