Perhaps you will remember Tanesha Hendley, the former schoolteacher who found herself in the throes of May 30, 2020, when provocateurs and angry protesters damaged the downtown Market House, an issue that polarized the Fayetteville community.
Hendley was there with her brother to take in the protest of the death of George Floyd 10 days earlier at the hands of a veteran Minneapolis police officer in an arrest gone badly wrong.
“We were just there,” Hendley told me in February about an evening that would end in chaos and damage to the historic landmark and a number of surrounding businesses on Hay Street. “We were not in the middle of the protest. It started so peaceful.”
Neither Hendley nor her brother wanted any part of what was happening, both returning to their homes to watch the protest play out in television news reports.
Hendley, 39, has spent the past two years hoping to tell the story of that night and the aftermath in a documentary she hopes will educate and be a part of the community healing that is underway under the direction of the Fayetteville City Council and the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Human Relations Commission. Those boards are working to repurpose the Market House as an education center that tells the story of where Black men were sold as slaves in the 1800s
“I think it’s a good idea,” Hendley said Friday when she stopped by our CityView Today offices to offer an update on her documentary. “They can come and get the information. I’m excited to see what they do.”
Hendley says she applied for a “mini grant” from the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County to help finance her documentary. Hendley says she applied in March and again in June.
“I can verify that a grant application was submitted by Tanesha Hendley and that the application went before our grants panel,” says Bob Pinson, interim president and chief executive officer of the Arts Council. “At that particular panel, 31 applications were reviewed and 15 were selected to go to the full board for approval and funding at various levels. Ms. Hendley's application was not one of the 15 that were recommended for approval.”
Hendley may have been disappointed.
She was not deterred.
“I’m not going to say what I’ve spent, but I have spent a lot of my own money,” Hendley says, adding that her parents, Doretha and Jimmy Hendley, have helped with financial support, too.
Hendley isn’t exactly a professional at producing video and film documentaries, but she enrolled in a virtual film class sponsored by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement in New York. Part of the classwork, she says, was to come up with an idea for a film documentary.
She’s been at it since.
Voices for the documentary
“I’ve done about 10 interviews with people in the community,” Hendley says.
She attended the last Fayetteville-Cumberland County Human Relations Commission meeting about what people in the community want to see happen with the Market House.
“A lot of them were excited about it being repurposed. They were excited it’s where they can take their kids and learn more about the history of Fayetteville. It was an overall positive meeting.”
Among those interviewed, she says, are Jimmy Buxton of the Fayetteville Chapter of the NAACP; Kathy Greggs, president and co-founder of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce; and downtown businessman Michael Pinkston, who lost his bid for the City Council District 8 seat and has been an outspoken critic of Police Chief Gina Hawkins, who held back her officers from confronting the protesters on May 30, 2020.
No success, Hendley says, in interviewing Hawkins or Mayor Mitch Colvin.
Hawkins at first said yes to an interview.
Hendley later received an email from Tabitha Sportsman, the chief’s administrative assistant.
“Unfortunately, Chief Hawkins will not be able to conduct an interview with you,” the Feb. 28 email reads. “There was a number of interviews, footage, news and social media outlets that covered these events. Therefore, an interview would only provide you information that has already been publicly presented, covered by the media and social media platforms. Chief Hawkins wishes you luck in your endeavors.”
No luck with the mayor, either, but ...
“The first time we scheduled an interview, I had to reschedule,” says Hendley, a mother of two young children and a former sixth-grade teacher at Nick Jeralds and New Century middle schools. “Since then, I’ve had a hard time rescheduling an interview. I haven’t given up on the mayor. I will catch up with him.”
‘The story has a lot of interest’
For Hendley and her documentary, time is nigh.
“I would like to have the work done by Sept. 1, and then get it to the editing people,” she says.
Hendley hopes her documentary can be done in time to be a part of the seventh Indigo Moon Film Fest presented annually by owners Jan Johnson and Pat Wright of GroundSwell Pictures downtown.
“The story has a lot of interest,” Wright says. “I don't know her, only that she was working on the film and it caught my attention. It has possibilities for sure.”
Indigo Moon has a mission to engage and inspire diverse communities by producing films, showing films, teaching filmmaking and supporting films that make a positive difference. It is scheduled for Oct. 7-9. The films will be shows at Cameo Art House Theater, the theater Loge and the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County.
To be considered, Wright says, much will depend on the quality of Hendley’s documentary.
“If — and that's a huge if — she gets it done and if the board agrees, we could have a special out-of-competition screening during the festival, meaning it could not be in consideration for any awards. Alternately, she could wait and enter the festival for 2023 and would be in competition.
“It's really up to her, and it would all hinge on the timing of the completion, the quality of the film and the board's decision.”
Truth be told, Hendley’s film likely will not be done in time for the film festival.
“Editing is the most time-intensive process,” Wright says, “and that takes months to do a great job.”
Wright knows all about video and film editing, when it comes to dissolves, bleeds and transitions.
Tanesha Hendley has some work left to do on her documentary film, just as Yamile Nazar, Semone Pemberton and Milette Harris of the Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission have work to do in the commission’s efforts for repurposing the Market House.
“I really think we are going to heal with this,” Hendley says. “I hope I’m not being naive. I hope I’m not, because why would people want to sit around and argue all the time?”
Hopefully, Hendley can apply for another $3,000 mini grant from the Arts Council, perhaps see her project as part of the Indigo Moon Film Fest this year or next, interview the mayor and complete her documentary.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.