Questions for a Maasai Warrior:
A conversation with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, Collaborator 14 Cows for America
Q: What does it mean to be a Maasai warrior?
A: To be a Maasai warrior means your life belongs to society, not to your individual family. You are always ready to put your life on the line to defend any community you find yourself in. Your home is the earth; your people are those around you. You never eat at your parent's house without another warrior or a child to share the food with. You should not be selfish with your life or your food.
Q: What made you want to go back to Kenya to tell your people your story?
A: I witnessed Americans hurting. My heart got wounded. I wanted to give a piece of my life to heal those who hurt. My heart conjured the gift of a calf, but I wanted the calf to be a blessed calf—blessed by the people who raised me. I knew my people's compassion, and I knew they'd see into my heart and understand me because sometimes one man's chest cannot carry a heavy pain by itself.
Q: Were you surprised by their reaction?
A: No. But I was deeply touched and moved by one spontaneous act that day. You see, I only asked my people to bless the calf I wanted to give. Not only did they bless the calf, many sympathized and offered thirteen more cows. This made me feel the kind arm of my people around me; and I knew Americans would be healed too when they heard of this compassion.
Q: What happened to the cows?
A: It was impossible to bring the cows to America, so the American embassy in Kenya requested that my people keep the cows safe on behalf of the American people. The cows remain grazing with my people's cows in the village. They are healthy and happy there. They've multiplied and given birth to little calves that are American too.
Q: How can you tell them apart from other village cows?
A: The American ambassador, Michael Ranneberger, picked a sign that identifies the cows. Every time a little calf is born, a mark that looks like the twin towers is curved on the calf's ear. This is a special remembrance of New York's twin towers and the lives lost on the fateful day of September 11th, 2001.
Q: How did you get involved with the creation of 14 Cows for America?
A: I was contacted by Carmen and Peachtree. They asked for my blessings and help in making this story real and authentic. This I joyfully did, with respect and honor for my people and for the lives lost on that tragic 9/11 morning in America.
Contributor: Peach Tree Publishers
14 Cows for America
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Carmen Agra Deedy in Collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
Kimeli returns to his small Maasai village for a visit. He has been studying medicine in the United States and he was there during the attacks of September 11. He tells the story to his people and they try to imagine the tall buildings, the deadly fires and the air dark with smoke and ashes. They want to do something for the American people who suffered in the attacks and when an elder voices that sentiment, Kimeli points out the importance cows have to the Maasai. Kimali asks the elder's blessing on offering his only cow but the elders do more than give a blessing. An American diplomat is invited to visit and a splendid ceremony is held as the Maasai offer 14 cows to America. The story is beautifully told and wonderfully pictured. The illustrator captured the African landscape as well as the sense and the feeling of those months after September 11, when the people of the USA were wounded and sad, without ever showing a scene from that day. Kimeli Naiyomah tells his interesting and heartwarming story in detail in a note at the back of the book. 2009, Peachtree Publishers, Ages All, $17.95. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
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