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Why Is Rosa Parks’ Former Detroit Home Being Shipped to Germany?

The former Detroit home of Rosa Parks Image courtesy of Fabia Medoza.

The former Detroit home of Rosa Parks; image courtesy of Fabia Mendoza.

The Detroit home where civil rights activist Rosa Parks resided during the late 1950s has been partially dismantled and sent overseas to an art studio based in Germany.

According to The Guardian, Parks’ niece, Rhea McCauley, donated the activist’s old home to Germany-based artist Ryan Mendoza after the city threatened to demolish it. Parks’ relatives had struggled over the years to raise money for the structure’s preservation.

Mendoza, who is American but has lived in Europe for over two decades, will attempt to reconstruct the home at his studio in Berlin’s Wedding district. Afterwards, he hopes to display the home at several art galleries across Europe, highlighting its largely unappreciated existence in the U.S.

“I hope either President Obama or his successor will be sensitive to this issue and catch word of the house that is held hostage across the world,” Mendoza told The Guardian. “A monument to Rosa Parks’ legacy that was purposely kidnapped in order for America to recognize what it has lost.”

Ryan Mendoza with "The White House" at Art Rotterdam. Photo Geert Broertjes, courtesy Art Rotterdam.

Ryan Mendoza with “The White House” at Art Rotterdam. Photo Geert Broertjes, courtesy Art Rotterdam.

The Rosa Parks Family Foundation, founded by McCauley, purchased the home on South Deacon Street in November 2014 for $500 from the Detroit Land Bank Authority, the Detroit Free Press reports. The activist’s niece had hopes of restoring the old residence and worked to buy it back from the council that placed it on the city’s demolition list in 2010.

“She loved the city, but I don’t think the city loved her very much back,” McCauley told the Detroit Free Press last month. “This house should have been preserved here. But we live in a world where every other project takes precedence.”

Mendoza stripped the structure’s facade and covered its remnants with what looked like a large white bed sheet. What was left of the house was demolished by ABC Demolition on Monday, Sept. 26.

The Parks project is similar to an earlier work by the Germany-based artist in which he transported a family home from Detroit’s low-income 8 Mile Road area into a permanent exhibit at the Verbeke Foundation in Belgium, The Guardian reports. Mendoza received backlash from a few Detroit residents who complained that the home’s crumbling remains were an eye sore. According to the Detroit Free Press, the structure’s remnants stood for six long months after the facade was stripped off.

Another one of Mendoza’s notable works is one in which he redesigned two abandoned Detroit homes so that light projected through bullet holes at night displayed the names of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, per The Guardian. But the artist noted he wanted to turn Parks’ old home “into a work of art without violating the building as a document.”

Mendoza argued that maybe he wasn’t the perfect candidate for the project and that “somebody in the Black community should be doing” it. However, he and McCauley only had one of two choices: preserve the home or let it be demolished.

“If a small little lady can fight for justice until the end of her life, what is wrong with the rest of us?” McCauley said.

Parks became the face of the Civil Rights Movement when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white person in December 1955. Her defiance sparked the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted over a year. She fled Alabama and retired to Detroit after receiving death threats well after the bus boycott. She resided in the Motor City until her death on October 4, 2005.

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