Why is Rosa Parks’ old Detroit home being moved to Berlin?


Rosa Parks was an icon of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Her story is taught to in US history courses and reconstructions of her iconic refusal give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus are in museums all throughout the country.

The Rosa Parks Bus. Source.
The Rosa Parks Bus. Source.

So why is Rosa Parks’ old residence being reconstructed in Berlin?

As of late, her old residence in Detroit was planned for total demolition by the city in an effort to cure the “blight” – that is the many older buildings in the neighborhood that don’t suit the new vision. The city didn’t feel that it was an important enough cultural landmark, and thus felt it was easier to simply tear down the building and move forward.

That was until artist Ryan Mendoza decided to step in and save Rosa Parks’ 1950s home on Detroit’s South Deacon Street. Mendoza has quietly tucked the remains of the home into shipping containers to transport to the German capital, where he will carefully reconstruct the ruins of Parks’ home.

How did Mendoza get involved?

Although Mendoza is a white artist based in Europe, this isn’t the first time that Mendoza has intervened in abandoned urban architecture, particularly in Detroit. A previous project, entitled “White House”, Mendoza transported and rebuilt a Detroit home in the Netherlands for Art Rotterdam.

And he’s not afraid to push the political envelope, either. Earlier in the year, he conducted The Invitation in Detroit. He painted two homes white and lit them up with signs that read, “Trump” on one home and “Clinton” on the other. He then invited the candidates to spend an evening in the “unkempt” America. Both declined.

Mendoza tells The Creators Project about how he was first approached by Rosa Parks’ niece Rhea McCauley about the home: “Not having found anyone through the usual channels to help her finance the restoration of the house, Rhea approached me after having seen the White House project where I saved a different house from demolition. I worked quietly to get the Rosa Parks’ house into a shipping container, as I suspected the city of Detroit would prefer to demolish a problem rather than to face it.”

And why Berlin?

The house has just recently arrived in Berlin, where Mendoza will spend the next few months restoring it. But he felt that it was necessary to bring it overseas. “I Hope either President Obama or his successor becomes sensitive to the issue (I know Michelle Obama is) and, in this instance, will catch word of the house that is held hostage across the world – a monument to Rosa Parks’ legacy that was purposely kidnapped in order for America to recognize what it has lost. If the POTUS recognizes that I have absconded with a national monument, deemed mere blight by his governing associates, what will he do? How will he react?”

Stay tuned for more information about visiting the project.

Source: The Creator’s Project