It is the intention of urban historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas to physically take his show on the road in order to capitalise on the popularity of his social media films in which he discusses obscure aspects of Chicago’s past.
During the Juneteenth weekend of this year, Thomas intends to launch Chicago Mahogany Tours, the company he co-founded with three of his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers. Chicago Mahogany Tours will focus on the city’s rich history. The 19th of June, 1865, is the date that is celebrated as Juneteenth because it is the anniversary of the day that the last African-Americans who had been slaves in the United States found out that they were free.
“When I started doing the history lessons on TikTok, a lot of people started saying: ‘Hey, you should give tours in person,’ ” said Thomas, a resident of Auburn Gresham. “When I started doing the history lessons on TikTok, a lot of people started saying: “Hey, you should do tours in person.” “And that seemed like the quickest pivot I could make with the momentum I’m gaining; I thought that was a way to get the former residents of the South Side who left due to white flight or blockbusting — they’re always in my comment section talking about the old neighbourhood — but they don’t come back. “And that seemed like the quickest pivot I could make with the momentum I’m gaining. “And that seemed like the quickest pivot I could make with the momentum I’m gaining
“I would love it if they could visit us again to look around the area, bask in the warmth of memories, and do some of their shopping here,” I said.
The tour will begin on June 19 and continue throughout the weekend with a morning and afternoon schedule (from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and 2 to 4:30 p.m. respectively) (the Saturday tours and Sunday afternoon are already sold out.) At the east parking lot of the DuSable Museum of African American History, which is located at 740 E 56th Place, passengers will board a bus for their trip. Each trip will accommodate forty tour attendees.
According to Thomas, the tour lasts for two hours and includes the following stops: The Wabash YMCA (the birthplace of Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month); the legendary Chess Records; the South Side Community Art Center; First Church of Deliverance; the Eighth Regiment Armory; and the home of Margaret Burroughs, the distinguished artist and co-founder of the DuSable Museum (Burroughs’s home was the museum’s original space).
Thomas, whose father was a slain officer in the Chicago Police Department, graduated from Olive-Harvey Middle College and Eastern Illinois University, and his notoriety continues to grow. One of his videos was shared on the Twitter account for the Chicago Police Department, he claims that he has been offered the chance to teach a Chicago history class at Moraine Valley Community College, and he recently had the opportunity to meet one of his heroes, the historian and educator Timuel Black.
“At first, [Black] was putting me through a test to determine whether or not I am telling the truth. After twenty minutes, he saw that I knew some stuff, and then he started dropping game [tips], as Thomas explained.
“People send me requests, so I really appreciate that because Chicago has so much history, and I don’t know at all,” said Thomas, who has posted videos on the history of the Moo & Oink Meat Company, Dibs, and the city’s violent taxicab wars of the 1920s, among many other topics. “People send me requests,” said Thomas. “I really appreciate that because Chicago has so much history, and I don’t know at all.”
Thomas, who is an area operator at ComEd, adds that his employer is highly supportive of his activities, which include plans to create more excursions relating to the July 4 celebration, the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, and architectural tours. Other trips will focus on the history of Chicago.
According to Thomas, “[ComEd] tells me, ‘Just do your job, don’t blow nothing up, report on time like you’re supposed to, and you can be as much of a historian as you want.'”