Chicago Historian and TikTok Sensation Speaks at Morning Ex

Last year, 6th grade students visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum for the Student Leadership Days Workshop, and as they were debriefing with their teachers during the return bus trip, everyone said they were blown away by the workshop’s keynote speaker, Chicago historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas.

His dynamic, engaging presentation stuck with students so much that Dean of Student Life for Intermediate and Middle Schools Anthony Shaker was determined to invite Dilla to speak at Morning Ex. And so, working with the Morning Ex Committee, Shaker was able to organize a visit with Dilla. Apparently, they weren’t the only people taken with his style: Since then, Dilla has had a meteoric rise on social media sites spreading positivity and sharing Chicago history in videos with more than 20 million views and bringing him more than 210,000 followers across platforms.

At Morning Ex, Dilla shared his belief in the value of positivity and said that, although the negative may get more attention in the short term, true value and opportunity come from being positive. For example, he explained that, while some people may film a fight and post it for easy clicks to support the negative image of Chicago, he creates TikToks that share the history of Chicago with a more positive message. As a result, his message is spread far and wide, he gets invited across the globe to speak, and his company Chicago Mahogany is able to sell its merch—sporting the same message he began his Morning Ex with: “Everything Dope About America Comes from Chicago”—in places like O’Hare and Midway. Of course, as one might expect from a historian, there were great Chicago history anecdotes covering everything from gospel music to Chicago sports teams to Italian beef sandwiches.

Shaker shared, “Dilla’s message was authentic, positive, engaging, inclusive and in line with what our school is all about. I loved that this MX really came from the kids and their excitement about bringing him in to speak. I’m proud of them for pushing me and the school to make it happen.”

With so much negative media attention centered around Chicago and in the world in general, Dilla’s message of positivity left a lasting impression with the community, and Parker is very grateful to him for taking time to speak with the school’s young developing minds.

Click here for photos.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.