Black History Verified: Q&A with Dilla

Get to know Black History Verified host and TikTok Chicago historian, Shermann "Dilla" Thomas in this exclusive Q&A. 

1. Tell me about what inspired your social media platform and how it all started?

"This is definitely a two-part answer. First off, my love of Chicago history came from my father who was a cop for 32 years in Chicago. He used to quiz me on Chicago with questions like, 'what culturally defines the north and south sides?' This allowed my curiosity about Chicago to keep building and building. I started my channel because my 9-year-old daughter wanted to do a dancing channel. Since I’m not much of a dancer, I thought I’d make an account about something I am passionate about and that’s where it started."

2. Who do you personally take inspiration from?

"I take inspiration from a great many people. I take inspiration from Timuel Black, Geoffrey Baer, and past Lumineers like Earl B. Dickerson. Of course, I take the most inspiration from my father."

3. What has been the most surprising thing about creating social media content?

"That it’s some hard work. I assumed just like everyone else that content creators just take the pictures and videos the one time and then post them. That is not true. Sometimes I’ll make a whole video and look back and see my son’s dirty diaper in the background or I’ll be making a video and my kids start arguing about something and I have to start all over again!"

4. Has creating your social media platform allowed you to grow in your own personal knowledge of Chicago? If so how?

"Absolutely. As a black guy I've spent a lot of time studying the black history of Chicago. Recently in the past 5 years, I’ve started studying other cultures so that I have a better view of the city. Because of my platform, I’ve become the go-to guy about Chicago history so I’ve been studying other cultures so that I can be that reliable person for people who want to learn about Chicago. I also want to make those connections with other cultures."

5. When you were first approached with the idea of Black History Verified, what was your first impression?

"Well I was honored. I know what the WCIU channel means to the city and what the programming has historically meant to the city. Also, I thought it was great how they wanted to highlight lesser known black people. This special shows how they are putting actions behind their words."

6. How does creating television content differ from social media content?

"On the one-hand, there are other people working on the project when you are making television content so you get a little more help. They can help you set the scene because they can see more to the scene. Other than that, the way that we produced this special was with a mixture of cameras and phones so there really wasn’t that much of a difference in my opinion.”

7. What would you like viewers to know about the special before it airs?

"One, that we spent a lot of time being thoughtful about why Black history matters to us all. It doesn’t really matter what your particular ethnic background is because these are historical figures that everyone can learn about and take pride in. Another thing that I think viewers should know and remember is that lifting up one history and one culture does not bring down another. It actually raises us all up, which is something we should always work to do."

8. Why do you think it is important for Chicagoans to learn and recognize the influence of Black culture in Chicago?

"Well for us especially in 2022, when Black Chicagoans are mentioned in the media it is not usually for the best reasons. Especially on the West Side and so many good things have happened on the West side, which is important for Chicagoans to recognize and be proud of. For Chicago to love itself more, Chicagoans should watch Black History Verified."

9. You were just featured in The Washington Post, what does your family and friends think about all of the opportunities you have had recently?

"My wife is very proud and so are my friends. They keep talking about Hollywood and teasing me. I know that people are proud because I’m gaining a larger following. My kids come home from school and tell me that other kids tell them that I’m cool because I’m verified which makes me feel good. I like knowing that I’m impacting their lives and if I can just make one person happy and inspired then I’m good. My nine-year-old, of course, is also very proud and I have to keep it going for her so she can create her own platform and become star."

10. What is next for you?

"Hopefully getting something on a bigger stage. Hopefully I kill this pilot I’m writing. I want to see my neighborhood tours continue and really keep that going. I’m just going to take it one step at a time.”

Watch Black History Verified this Saturday at 1:30P & Saturday, February 26 at 11P on CW26. You can also watch it this Sunday at 12P & Sunday, February 20 at 6:30P on The U. If you want to see more Dilla, click here to check out his TikTok channel.