Rosa Parks' niece wants to turn home site to community garden

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The house that civil rights icon Rosa Parks lived in when she moved to the city no longer sits on a plot of land in southwest Detroit. But now, one of her relatives wants to use the site to honor Parks' life and legacy. 

Rosa Parks took refuge in southwest Detroit after facing threats for standing up for what's right. And now, her relatives, who still live in Detroit, think it's time to do something special with the spot where that house once stood.

"Imagine living in Alabama, receiving the death threats, and the hateful phone calls," says Rhea McCauley.

McCauley remembers living as a child in a house on this land in 1957 when her Auntie Rosa came to start a new life without a penny to her name.

"She didn't know she was making history," McCauley says. "She didn't know that standing up for yourself and saying the word no, she didn't know that; she just thought I'm a tiny old woman and I'm tired of taking crap."

Rosa Parks lived in a house here on south Deacon for two years with her brother and his 13 children, including McCauley, before she was able to move to a home of her own. In 2016, that house was moved to Germany to be put on display.

Now, McCauley says it's time to till the land so her legacy can continue to grow.

"It's kind of difficult for young people to know what history is all about," says McCauley. "But once they see something like this, oh a Rosa Parks urban garden, in the middle of southwest Detroit, they'll understand what her life was all about."

McCauley is facing an uphill battle. She has already had power tools stolen, and she needs volunteers to help with her vision before the winter frost.

"If people would just call and come out, because we're working every day," she says.

It's a neighborhood with a lot of crime, she says.

"In this community we have drugs, we have prostitution," McCauley says. "They walk up and down the street."

And a lot of parents are hoping for a better future for their kids.

"I think that would be very awesome," says Brittany Kendall, a resident in the neighborhood and mother. "Our kids need to have positive vibes around the community with all the craziness going on in the world."

"That's a very good thing because they don't have to come out here," says resident Gerald Washington. "They don't have to do anything out here. That means people still have hearts out here. That's carrying on a legacy."

It's a legacy McCauley intends to spread, hoping to share stories about her Auntie Rosa while educating youth about farming.

"We hope to grow what my father used to grow, which is string beans, carrots, onions," McCauley says, adding she wants to use what they grow to feed the homeless.

"Day by day we see progress," she said. "Will this work? Yes."

Rosa Park's niece is looking for organizations to partner with her, so she can schedule a few days for volunteers to work on the land.

She could also use donations to pay for the power tools lost, we've posted a website when you can donate along with an email address you can use to get involved. CLICK HERE. To contact McCauley, email her HERE.