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‘Chicago Party Aunt’ Chris Witaske Tours Chatham with Local Historian Shermann ‘Dilla’ Thomas
‘Chicago Party Aunt’ Chris Witaske Tours Chatham with Local Historian Shermann ‘Dilla’ Thomas
Apr 15, 2024 2:25 PM

From Soldier Field to shots of Malort; these Chicago entities as portrayed on the Netflix series “Chicago Party Aunt” primarily highlight the city’s Northside. But across town on 75th Street, sits another Chicago entity that folks line up for everyday beginning at noon sharp Lem’s barbecue. Located in what is referred to as “Downtown Chatham,” but is technically in Greater Grand Crossing, Lem’s is a Southside staple that’s been feeding Chicagoans since the 1950s. But the goodness that Chatham offers doesn’t end on 75th Street. It expands throughout the neighborhood. So we decided to take a tour and ended up on the front porch of a classic Chicago bungalow.

I got rib tips and barbecue chicken and it was absolutely delicious,” Chris Witaske said. “It was cool to see a piece of history from this side of town.”

Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, who describes himself as a “neighborhood historian” agrees.

“Right now we’re sitting in a bungalow that was in Chatham and Rogers Park.”

He’s recently gained popularity on Tik Tok for his creative breakdown of Chicago history.

“Chatham saw the construction of the Chicago beloved bungalow, as well as large apartments,” Dilla says.

“It’s full of unique and beautiful architecture but was under racial restrictions, which prevented African Americans from moving in. It’s a middle class neighborhood. At one point there were 2 dozen African American millionaires living in Chatham. From Reggio’s Pizza, to Soft Sheen, to Jerry Curl. There’s so much history. So many entrepreneurs come from right here.”

Witaske says this tour helped him better understand how connected the city is as a whole. Witaske hopes to break those neighborhood misconceptions and barriers with his main character Diane in the coming seasons on his Netflix show.

“Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, but you stay in your pocket a lot,” Witaske says. “So coming down here and seeing like this street you could find on the Northside, it looks exactly the same. It was cool to come and experience the similarities. I think that Diane probably grew up in Beverly or Bridgeport. A lot of people on Twitter say she’s a Southsider.”

“Chicago is at its best when Diane is coming to the Southside to come visit a Jerome,” Dilla agrees. “That’s when Chicago is at its best. If you look at those intersectionalities that’s what makes us proud. There’s a Party Aunt on the Southside, her name is just probably Keisha.”

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