Artist feeling the effects of ill-received HB 1523

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Local gallery owner H.C. Porter is personally feeling the negative effects of House Bill 1523. Her image of the legendary blues artist B.B. King was to be used for the commemorative poster and t-shirt design for the 37th annual Mississippi Picnic scheduled in New York City, and now the event has been canceled.

Mississippi picnic organizer, Alexis Brown informed Porter yesterday of the news and told her after speaking with Rachel McPherson, who is the New York Mississippi Picnic co-founder, there were going to be additional fees and insurance to hold the picnic in Central Park.

“She (Brown) said because of the growing concern about protestors in opposition of the bill, and since Mississippi would be there accessible, they (the people in charge of the picnic) were going to be required to take some terrorism classes in preparation for what they might face in New York,” Porter said.

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Before learning of the cancellation, Porter admitted she had been contemplating what she should do about the picnic following Gov. Phil Bryant signing House Bill 1523, which allows religious groups and private businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people.

“I had been contemplating my personal responsibility and had not decided if I should boycott the event in protest as a member of LGBT community, who would have been there with my family in New York representing one of our state’s great ambassadors B. B. King with my painting or would I go in protest and in some way voice my heart break and opposition to the bill in someway, and wear my no hate in my state or ya’ll means all t-shirt.”

Porter has spent her career focusing on Mississippians and their stories with distinctive mixed media “environmental portrait” paintings beginning in black communities.

From September 2005 until August 2006, she was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast documenting Mississippians as they reclaimed their lives following Hurricane Katrina, which is shown through her BACKYARD AND BEYOND: Mississippians and Their Stories project, which traveled to museums throughout the country.

Her most recent project, Blues@Home features 30 of Mississippi’s legendary blues performers representing Mississippi’s unique blues landscape.

“I love this state. I have documented and represented this state for almost 30 years all over the country. People live with my images of Mississippi all over the world, and to know that now Mississippi has chosen to almost rename itself in a way in people’s hearts and minds and images by erasing all the progress that we have made in the last 50 years in one swipe of a pen.”

In her overwhelming sadness over the bill, Porter said she felt like the governor has not only placed a ridiculous burden on the state by signing it into law, but the piece of legislature has also fulfilled the expectations of what others have thought about Mississippi.

“It has just underscored the stereotypes of Mississippi, which is so sad because we are not all like this,” Porter said.

“We have worked in all corners of this state, we have worked so hard for so many years to erase all those negative stereotypes of discrimination, and in one minute he (Gov. Bryant) brought it all back upon us. I have worked almost 30 years to combat the stereotypes of Mississippi and now it is like ‘we knew they would never change anything.’ We have met everybody’s low expectations around the country and the world about Mississippi.”

The annual Mississippi Picnic had been scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. June 11 and the theme was “Nothing but the Blues.”

In addition to Porter’s poster and t-shirt images, 500 pounds of catfish, donated by Simmons Farm–raised Catfish and 140 pounds of hush puppies were to be driven from Yazoo City to New York and prepared by the Mississippi Catfish Cooking team led by Ken Atkins.

Exhibits showcasing tourism and retirement destinations in Mississippi, state colleges and universities and other areas of interest were to also have been on display.

The picnic would have also served as an economic opportunity Porter to display her other multimedia paintings to the more than 6,000 who were expected to attend.

“This will be something I will have to bear as well,” she said.


About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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