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Mt. Zion High counselor co-authors Yorùbá book

As a native of Nigeria, Mt. Zion High School Guidance Counselor Ibiyemi Bernadette Dare grew up in the midst of the Yorùbá culture for more than 20 years, and it still remains close to her heart.

She continues to attend Yorùbá celebrations held in the Atlanta area. As a parent, she has had her two children memorize the Yorùbá nursery rhyme, "Ise ni oogun ise," which promotes working hard, and taking education seriously.

"I look to it as something that guides you into the basic expectations of society," said Dare,

41, who has been a guidance counselor at Mt. Zion for 10 years. She and her longtime friend, Clark-Atlanta University political science professor, Abi Adegboye, who also grew up in the Yorùbá culture, have co-authored a book on the culture. The book, "Ówànbè! Yorùbá Celebrations of Life," was published last month by Snellville-based Rufus and Rachel Publishing, Inc. The 68-page book can be purchased for $19.99 on Amazon.com.

Dare, who spent a year as a guidance counselor at Tara Elementary School before going to Mt. Zion, described the book as something that can serve multiple purposes, ranging from being a coffee-table book, to a "How-to" book that explains how to perform Yorùbá ceremonies. Most of all, she said, it documents, and explains, a culture she and Adegboye grew up in, and wanted to see preserved in some form.

"We want it to cut across everything, so any person, any age, can be entertained, and find something special about the book," Dare said.

Before spending the last 11 years in Clayton County Public Schools, Dare was a guidance counselor for Atlanta Public Schools, and for Decatur City Schools. She said she and Adegboye have known each other since 1988, when they both joined the Nigerian Youth Service Corps, a program in which recent college graduates from one part of the country are sent to another part, to learn about differences in the way other people live their lives.

Dare and Adegboye are both from southern Nigeria. Dare said she was born in the town of Lagos, while Adegboye said she was born in the town of Ibadan.

"We would talk all the time about the culture and how much it meant to us," Dare said.

In the mid-1990s, the pair crossed paths again. This time, Dare said, it was as doctoral students at Clark-Atlanta University, where Dare was studying education and leadership, and Adegboye was studying political science.

In between their stints in the Nigerian youth Service Corps, and meeting up again at Clark-Atlanta, Dare said she worked in Nigeria's Federal Department of Education and Youth Services, working with school guidance and career counseling programs. She has bachelors and master's degrees in education and counseling from the University of Ilorin, in Ilorin, Nigeria.

The book takes the reader through the different stages of a Yorùbá person's life, bookmarked by birth, and death. It also includes explanations of traditional Yorùbá dress, and recipes for traditional foods. People who grew up in the Yorùbá culture speak Yorùbá, Dare said. A common theme in the book, is that of celebration. Celebrations, Dare said, play a large role in Yorùbá culture.

"We celebrate every mile stone," she said. "It's like, ‘Oh the baby is eight days old, lets have a celebration. Oh the baby is now [60] days old, lets have another celebration.'"

Those celebrations have meaning, though. On the eighth day after a child is born, Dare said, the family holds a naming ceremony. At 60 days old, the Yorùbá consider the child healthy enough to "come out" in public, she added.

Other occasions for celebrations, Dare said, include the purchase of a new car, a youth getting his, or her, first paycheck from his, or her, first job, three-day wedding celebrations, and three-day funeral celebrations. When a person dies, his or her family and friends gather 40 days later to hold a celebration that marks the end of the mourning period, she said.

Adegboye said it was her idea to put the information in the book, but Dare said it was born out of the frequent conversations they had been having about the Yorùbá culture. "We said to ourselves, ‘We can't just keep sitting down and talking about our culture, let's put it in a book so people can read it,'" Dare said.

Adegboye said it took two years to put the book together before it was published. It took one year to write the book, and another year to compile all of the pictures in it. The biggest thing they had to deal with in writing the book, she said, was pulling the explanations together, and then using language that made the culture easy to understand.

"I would have all of this educational jargon in there, and she [Dare] would have to tone it down to make sure it was accessible to many people," Adegboye said.