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January 10, 2012

Resurrection City: Birthplace to the Occupy Movement


CHICAGO (January 10, 2011)--Bringing art to life, the Rebuild Foundation, a not-for-profit, creative engine focusing on cultural and economic redevelopment and affordable space initiatives in under-resourced communities, will partner with Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to build replica tent structures like the ones used in the 1968 Resurrection City. 
The first of the structures will be unveiled on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the 22nd Annual PUSH for Excellence MLK Scholarship Breakfast.  The event will take place at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on Monday, January 16, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. and will celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Before Occupy Movement “occupiers” set up camp in public parks across the country, Dr. King organized the Poor People’s Campaign, which was to include an encampment in Washington, D.C.  Dr. King was assassinated in the midst of the project, but leaders within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference attempted to carry out his mission. 
To nonviolently protest and highlight the plight of poverty-stricken Americans, demonstrators arrived in Washington on May 12, 1968 on buses from multiple southern states to set up an encampment near the Reflecting Pool on the Mall. John Wiebenson, an architect, designed some 2,800 simple lean-to structures for demonstrators to live in. The encampment became known as Resurrection City. 
Rev. Jackson submitted an essay that was published in Ebony magazine regarding his experience as mayor of Resurrection City.  He wrote, “There is an inherent contempt that the economic system holds for the suppressed at the bottom of the economy.” He added, “Resurrection City cannot be seen as a mudhole in Washington, but it is rather an idea unleashed in history. The idea has taken root and is growing across the country.”
The Poor People’s Campaign was met with some of the same criticisms of today’s Occupy Movement: lack of defined leadership and clear demands. After a month of demonstrating, protestors were met with tear gas and arrests, and on June 24, 1968 the city was cleared.   
Theaster Gates, Chicago native, artist, urban planner and founder of the Rebuild Foundation stated, “We currently manage projects in Omaha, Saint Louis, and Chicago and in each city we enlist a team of artists, architects, developers, educators, and community activists who work together to integrate the arts and alternative entrepreneurship into a community-driven process of place making and neighborhood transformation.”

Under Creative Director and artist, John Preus, the Rebuild Foundation will design and build multiple tent structures for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, each with its own theme highlighting the gaps in economic opportunity, wealth inequality, access to high quality education and affordable healthcare.  Some of the same perils the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s sought to equalize are being challenged today by the Occupy Movement
“This is a great symbolic partnership,” said Rev. Jackson. “Rebuild activates creative community resources to bring back vibrant neighborhoods. They act as a catalyst in local economies by integrating small business incubation, creative architectural rehabilitation, hands-on education, and art.”

For more information in the Rebuild Foundation and John Preus visit and    

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization devoted to protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. To learn more, please or call (773) 373-3366. To arrange an interview with Rev. Jackson, please call the numbers listed above.

Resurrection City 1968

Rebuild Foundation Replica Tents