DuPree was guest speaker for the Black History Month Observance at the PRCC Forrest County Center.
He cited Rosa Parks, Vernon Dahmer and his mother as bridge builders who helped make possible the educational and other opportunities today’s students enjoy.
“You should be bridge extenders,” DuPree said. “Don’t stop where they did. Make that bridge longer, put some more lanes on it.”
Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Ala., bus led to a boycott, the emergence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and a U.S. Supreme Court making segregated facilities unconstitutional.
“To set the record straight, it wasn’t a bunch of colored people who decided to boycott,” DuPree said. “It was black people and white people who banded together.”
Dahmer, a Forrest County voters’ rights activist, died after his family’s home on Monroe Road was firebombed in 1965.
“All he ever wanted to do was be treated like a first-class citizen,” DuPree said. “He died to make life better for us.”
DuPree said his mother, who didn’t finish high school and held down multiple jobs as a domestic to support three children, also was a bridge builder.
“My mama had expectations for us,” he said. “She would come home and say where is your homework. And we’d show it to her. We didn’t know my mama didn’t know anything about algebra or biology, but she made out like she did because she wanted better for us.”
DuPree spoke at the Forrest County Center’s fifth annual Black History Month observance.
“It gave me more knowledge about Rosa Parks,” said student Jessica Silas of Hattiesburg. “I didn’t know all of the story.”
The program also included a performance by The Voices jazz vocal ensemble. Students participating in the program were Geneva Leggett, invocation; Erin Green, Pledge of Allegiance; and Amber Baker, the national anthem.