“An Evening with Friends: Heart & Soul” Gala was a special evening of musical entertainment and visual arts with over 300 supporters to posthumously honor civic and cultural leader Dorothy Rogers Porter and Grammy-winning composer, Dr. Henry Panion at the UAB Alys Stephens Center for Performing Arts. Panion, who was also the honorary chairman of the event, led a night of artistic expressions, gourmet indulgences, a silent auction and dancing along with Birmingham (AL) Chapter Links co-chairs, Gaynell Hendricks and Anne Hooks and Chapter President, Monique Gardner-Witherspoon. “This year we were pleased to honor one of the phenomenal legacies of our chapter, Link Dorothy Rogers Porter,” said Birmingham Chapter president, Dr. Monique Witherspoon. “It is fitting that this honor will generate more impactful Links programs in our community.” “We were also pleased to honor the community work of Dr. Henry Panion with a $2,000 donation to his Audiostate 55 music summer camp for middle and high school students,” said Hendricks.
Mrs. Porter, a member of the Birmingham (AL) Chapter Links, and well-known civic and cultural leader, died in 2013. She was a native of Orville, Alabama, and she graduated from Alabama State University with a bachelor's degree in music. She went on to earn a master's degree in music education from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. An accomplished mezzo-soprano, she further developed her musical abilities in New York and Boston. Mrs. Porter had a heart for the arts and encouraged and mentored many in the Birmingham Arts community and beyond. As the wife of prominent pastor, the late Reverend John Thomas Porter, she established a musical and cultural ministry that continues to thrive at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Event patrons were welcomed with music from a three-string quartet featuring students from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. The evening also featured a welcome and recounting of Porter’s arts impact from Freeman Hrabowski, who is President of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and a Birmingham native. Other program participants were Hrabowski’s wife Jacqueline, a former student of Mrs. Porter, flutist Kim Scott, and two Porter children, Mia Porter and Robert Porter. The night continued with Art Conversations with WBHM 90.3 hosted by Sherrel Stewart in the Recital Hall. The program featured interviews with arts patron and the 2017 Gala Honoree, Patti McDonald. Also on the program were the Hrabowskis, Kim Scott, Dr. Panion and Dorothy Porter’s children. On the lower level patrons enjoyed the music of guitarist and contemporary jazz band leader Eric Essix and Kim Scott, the EMERGE ART Gallery featuring local artists and young participants in the Birmingham Chapter Liinks’ ArtWorks program for young artists, a Favorite Things Boutique and a lavish Brasserie. Since 1956, The Birmingham (AL) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated has been creating and supporting opportunities for educating minority youth in the arts and presenting and supporting performances by youth and accomplished professional artists in a diversity of disciplines. Annually, members of the Birmingham Chapter volunteer more than 3000 hours in service to the Greater Birmingham community. Their work covers a broad spectrum of initiatives including public education, health and wellness, and fine arts education. The chapter’s signature program, JAMS (Joining Artists and Music in the Schools), is a comprehensive music education program that exposes elementary school students to various musical genres while also providing educational enrichment programming.
The Links, Incorporated is an international, not-for-profit corporation. The membership consists of 15,000 professional women of color in 288 chapters located in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United Kingdom. The organization was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 9, 1946.