One of the most prominent and respected ethnic groups in Africa, the Massai warriors are courageous and intriguing. Massai men, in order to become warriors, must go out alone into the bush and kill a male lion with their bare hands. The warriors are so greatly feared, it is told that lions and cheetahs will run away or stop their pursuits of game animals if a Massai warrior is anywhere close by. As soon as a Massai warrior is initiated, their spear and shield are decorated with red paint, which is symbolic of their status in society.
In Massai culture although young boys are sent out with the calves and lambs as soon as they can toddle, childhood for boys is mostly playtime. Every 15 years or so, a new and individually named generation of warriors will be initiated. This involves most boys between 12 and 25 who have reached puberty and are not part of the previous age-set.
One rite of passage from boyhood to the status of junior warrior is a painful circumcision ceremony, which is performed without anesthetic. The Maa word for circumcision is emorata. The boy must endure the operation in complete silence. Expressions of pain bring dishonor, albeit temporarily. The healing process will take 3-4 months, and boys must remain in black cloths for a period of 4-8 months. During this period, the newly circumcised young men will live in a "manyatta", a "village" built by their mothers. The manyatta has no encircling barricade for protection, emphasizing the warrior role of protecting the community.
Further rites of passage are required before achieving the status of senior warrior, culminating in the eunoto ceremony, the "coming of age". When a new generation of warriors is initiated, the existing warriors will graduate to become junior elders, who are responsible for political decisions until they in turn become senior elders. The warriors are responsible for the society's security, and spend most of their time on walkabouts throughout Maasai lands, beyond the confines of their sectional boundaries. They are also very involved in cattle trading, developing and improving basic stock through trades and bartering. Boys are responsible for herding small livestock. During the drought season, both warriors and boys assume responsibility for herding livestock.
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IN HONOR OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH:
General Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. was the first African-American general in the US Air Force. He was a commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen. He was also commander of the 332nd Fighter Group, which escorted bombers on air combat missions over Europe. On December 9, 1998, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was advanced to the rank of General, U.S. Air Force (Retired), with President Clinton pinning on his four-star insignia.