Urban historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, known for his popular social media videos detailing lesser-known Chicago history factoids, aims to take his show on the road — literally.
Through Chicago Mahogany Tours — founded by Thomas and three of his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers — he aims to kick off their Chicagocentric history tour during this year’s Juneteenth weekend. Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, a date which commemorates when the last enslaved Africans in America learned they were free.
“When I started doing the history lessons on TikTok, a lot of people started saying: ‘Hey, you should do tours in person,’ ” said Thomas, an Auburn Gresham resident. “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 via white flight or blockbusting — they’re always in my comment section talking about the old neighborhood — but they don’t come back.
“I would like to see them maybe come back and explore the neighborhood, get some feelings of nostalgia, and shop here.”
Shermann “Dilla” Thomas poses for a portrait outside of Margaret Burroughs’ old house at 3806 South Michigan. Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
The tour kicks off June 19 with a morning and afternoon slate (from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and 2 to 4:30 p.m.) throughout the weekend (the Saturday tours and Sunday afternoon are already sold out.) Passengers will board a bus (40 tour goers per trip) in the east parking lot of the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E 56th Place.
Stops along the two-hour tour, Thomas says, include: 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, the son of a deceased Chicago police officer, an Olive-Harvey Middle College and Eastern Illinois alumnus, continues to see his profile rise. The Chicago police’s Twitter account posted one of his videos, he says he’s been offered an opportunity to teach a Chicago history class at Moraine Valley Community College, and he met one of his heroes: historian and educator Timuel Black.
“At first, [Black] was testing me to see if I’m for real or not. After 20 minutes, he saw that I knew some stuff and then he started dropping game [advice],” said Thomas.
“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 others.
Thomas, who works at ComEd as an area operator, says his employer is very supportive of his endeavors, which includes plans to curate other tours pertaining to the July 4 holiday, the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, and architectural tours.
“[ComEd] says: ‘Just do your job, don’t blow nothing up, report on time like you’re supposed to, and you can be as much as a historian as you want,’ ” said Thomas.
More information on all the tours can be found at evitebrite.com.
Source by chicago.suntimes.com