Thank you to everyone who joined us for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022: Inside the Chicago Freedom Movement. We hope the conversation inspired you to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact in Chicago and how we can continue to build a more equitable Chicago region today.
If you were unable to join us on Monday, 1/17, a recording of the conversation between Tamiya Aurel and Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is available below.
Shermann “Dilla” Thomas
The Urban Historian
Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is a fascinating blend of modern historian, cultural worker and public employee. A life-long resident of Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, Dilla attended Calumet High School but graduated from Olive-Harvey Middle College, an alternative high school located in a branch of the city colleges. An employee of Chicago-area power utility ComEd since 2011, Dilla began making TikTok videos in an effort to bond with one of his seven children.
Like every parent, Dilla is always on the lookout for ways to engage his children. So when his then eight-year-old daughter suggested a father-daughter collaboration to produce TikTok dance videos, he was both elated and perplexed: elated at the opportunity to use social media as a medium to bond with his daughter; perplexed by the persistent thought that he might do something more substantive with his efforts to produce content.
Perhaps due to a yeoman effort to keep his dance moves off the internet, Dilla came up with the novel idea of producing short videos focusing on the history of Chicago. The rest of the story is, as they say, history. Dilla’s followers now rest at 64,000 on the platform, and he has thousands on Twitter (where he was recently blue check verified) and Instagram as well. His name on social media, @6figga_dilla, comes from his love of the employment trades, and he believes that you reach monetary success (or six figures) there just as quickly as if you became a doctor or a lawyer.
Although Dilla’s focus is aimed squarely at underexposed aspects of Black Chicago, his work continually reveals the rich tapestry of Chicago history.
TikTok’s Dilla The Urban Historian Is Educating Followers And Challenging Chicago Stereotypes — 60 Seconds At A Time
As Chief People & Equity Officer for United Way of Metro Chicago, Tamiya provides critical leadership by developing and leading organizational-wide HR strategic initiatives specifically in the areas of workforce planning, talent management, performance management, training and development, employee relations and oversees compensation and benefits administration. As the senior leader for all equity initiatives, she provides effective leadership to ensure that equity consideration informs planning and decision-making processes across the organization to reach equity goals.
Prior to joining United Way of Metro Chicago, Tamiya spent more than 20 years developing and honing her passion for human resources. She began her career in the not-for-profit sector working for Thresholds in case management. It is there where she discovered her love of HR and has since worked in several industries across Chicagoland including retail (Target), health care (Fresenius Medical Care) and insurance (CNA Insurance). With each new opportunity, she always found a way to also serve people, often leading volunteer efforts and participating in charitable events. It was the love of community that led Tamiya to return to work with a mission-based organization.
Tamiya’s love of community extends beyond her professional life. She is an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and is currently a member of Alumnae chapter Eta Xi Sigma in Oak Lawn. She has served on the board of the Youth Baseball Association of Richton Park and currently serves on the boards of the Institute for NonViolence Chicago and Human Resources Practitioners of Color.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in Allied Health Professions from Northern Illinois University and has earned certifications from the Human Resources Certification Institute, Professional in Human Resources, PHR and the Society of Human Resources, Certified Professional, SHRM-CP.
Tamiya is proud to say she was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. Although she currently resides in the Southland region, she grew up in Chatham and attended schools in the Bronzeville and Marquette Park neighborhoods. When she isn’t working or volunteering, she is raising two children and enjoys cooking, reading and attending festivals and fairs all across Chicagoland.
Chief People and Equity Officer,
United Way of Metro Chicago
Service Project Details
Support your neighbors this Martin Luther King Jr. Day with care kits. United Way of Metro Chicago’s community partners have put together a list of supplies they need to support our neighbors’ basic needs this winter: food, clothing, hygiene items and more.
Download Care Kit Instructions
Help them gather these essentials into kits and then donate them to one of our agency partners near you.