Portia White’s legacy lives on after 100 years

Community members, performers and fans of Portia White came together in honour of her legacy and to celebrate the centennial anniversary of her birth.

Marko Simmonds makes a tribute to Portia White (Courtney Zwicker photo)

 

By Courtney Zwicker

Community members, performers and fans of Portia White came together in honour of her legacy and to celebrate the centennial anniversary of her birth.

The event was part of African Heritage Month which is celebrated in Halifax every February.

It was held at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on Monday evening, hosted by Shauntay Grant.

Grant says she believes the most remarkable thing about White was her ability to transform from a small town girl into a music superstar.

Film director Sylvia Hamilton attended the event and screened her biographical documentary about White called, “Think on Me”.

The documentary chronicled White’s upbringing, personal life and her successful music career.

White was born in Truro in 1911. She made her music debut at her father’s church. Her contralto classical voice carried her to her first national performance in Toronto in 1941. By 1944 she made her introduction to the international stage and performed in New York City. Afterwards she began her first and only world tour.

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Portia White
Sylvia Hamilton
African Heritage Month

White died in 1968 from cancer.

Hamilton says that throughout White’s successful career and fame, the media and music industry never stopped referring to her as a “negro contralto”.

“The moniker was always there during that period.”

The event featured musical performances from mezzo-soprano Marcia Swanson and singer-songwriter Marko Simmonds.

Simmonds says as a man of African descent who studies classical music, White is “someone that he can relate to and admire.”

White has been declared “a person of national historic significance” by the Government of Canada.

This February celebrates the twenty eighth annual African Heritage Month and the theme is Unsung Heroes: Men Who Make a Difference.

Watch video highlights of the event in honour of Portia White’s legacy.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HMJ20A-7LI&feature=youtu.be