Ryan Mendoza’s “The Rosa Parks House Project” is an art installation that honors Rosa Parks and the struggles she faced due to her courageous leadership in the civil rights movement. The artwork was created with the support of the nieces and nephews of Rosa Parks and includes recreations of remembered details of her stay with them in that house.
The house, formerly owned by Rosa McCauley Parks’ only sibling Sylvester McCauley, speaks to issues of the centrality of family connection in the African American experience, of the Great Migration, of segregation, of redlining, of faulty mortgages and the housing crisis, of misogyny, as well as of the marginalization of black oral history. The McCauley family living in this house was the reason and hope that lead Rosa to move from the south to Detroit. Rhea McCauley repurchased the house back from the Detroit demolition lists in 2016 to honor Rosa Parks and to preserve the evidence of the precarious struggle of Rosa Parks to keep a roof over her head in the “Northern promised land that wasn’t.” Rhea entrusted the house and its message about Parks to the artist Ryan Mendoza, who had to move the house to Berlin and back, to accomplish his goals.
The house had been dismantled and shipped from Detroit to Berlin where it was rebuilt and warmly received. When it returned back again to the states, notwithstanding the unexpected cancellation of the show, the house was embraced by the local Providence community. About a thousand people visited the WaterFire Arts Center during the busy Easter weekend to attend a program of music, hymns, and theatre organized by Rose Weaver.
Photographs by Erin Fredrick & Erin Cuddigan, courtesy of WaterFire Arts Center.