Winner, Summit Award, 2010
Such A Crime was written, recorded and performed regularly in support of The Elfenworks Foundation’s 2010 Second Saturdays for Soup-Kitchens campaign, and its message is still relevant today. The hope was to inspire folks to sing together, fostering compassion and then action. The song – an easy sing-along song with follow-the-bouncing-ball video and easy sheet music – uses one true story to point out the problem with criminalizing poverty and the senselessness of passing laws against helping our less fortunate neighbors. The story itself came from the New York Times Op-Ed, “So, Is It Now a Crime to be Poor?” by Barbara Ehrenreich.
The effort was envisioned as a call-and-response. First, a very simple sing-along video with an old-fashioned ‘follow the bouncing ball’ motif. Then, other musicians might join in, replying in whatever creative way they wished. The hope was that voices would rise, soup kitchen pantries would be filled, and more homeless neighbors would be sheltered, if we could be inspired to begin the process by singing together regularly. The band Commodore Callahan performed the song every Second Saturday for over a year, beginning in February of 2010. When the effort was envisioned, there were few such gatherings happening, anywhere. This was about one and one half years before the Occupy movement of the Fall of 2011.
Such a Crime’s focus on poverty, intentional blindness, or the choice of helping, and doesn’t speak to the issues that got people marching in the Occupy movement. Occupy centered more around inequality and anger at business practices, and had its own singing components (e.g., Occupella). Although the Second Saturdays concept did not succeed in capturing the public imagination, we stand behind the spirit behind the song, and look forward to hearing about new and creative ways people may find to use song to move hearts and minds for the greater good.
The Back Story (The Ballad’s Inspiration)
Such a Crime found its inspiration in a true story, a New York Times Op-Ed piece by Barbara Ehrenreich, who has been pointing out some very scary trends for our country, including an increasing criminalization of poverty itself. Ms. Ehrenreich told the true and tragic story of a Vietnam-era veteran – a minister – who was disabled and found himself homeless, but then was rousted from his bed in a raid, and arrested for the crime itself having been related to his actual homelessness (vagrancy). To make matters worse, this happened in Washington, where those who sent him to war reside and work. The song’s refrain asks simply: “Is it a crime to be poor?”
Lyrics by Lauren Speeth and Music by Josh Workman. Performed by the band Commodore Callahan: Vocals by Lauren Speeth, Josh Workman, and Don Kane. Guitar & synth: Josh Workman. Bass: Don Kane. Video animation by Dan Coplan. Produced by Elfenworks Productions, LLC. Copyright Elfenworks Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.