“Sing a Song of Safety” No tunes for Trayvon Martin in the 21st Century


When I was a young child, one of the song books we had at home and in school was Sing A Song of Safety. The songs, written by Irving Caesar (lyrics) and Gerald Marks (music) in 1937, were a way to teach children how to be safe. “Let the Ball Roll” says don’t chase the ball into the street. “Ice Skating is Nice Skating” cautions against skating on thin ice. “When You Swim” is about always having an adult near by or at your side. The melodies and lyrics are easy to remember, which made the song book popular across the country. In New York, former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had the song book distributed to all public schools.

Caesar also wrote Songs of Friendship (is about tolerance and understanding of different cultures and was inspired by the creation of the United Nations) in 1946 and the Songs of Health in 1947. Gerald Marks composed the music for both collections. Caesar initially offered the Songs of Friendship to the federal government for use in public schools. The feds passed on his offer and the songs were then published by the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith. “For these songs, too, Caesar received recognition from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He performed the Songs of Friendship for Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, and UN Secretary General Trygve Lie, among other distinguished guests.”

I still remember the lyrics to my favorite songs from Sing a Song of Safety. I taught them to my children and they to theirs. Lately, two songs come to mind. Both talk about police; one celebrates them as heroes in our communities, Heroes of Peace,” and the other, “Remember Your Name and Address,” is all about trusting the police:

Remember your name and address
And telephone number, too
And if, someday, you lose your way
You know just what to do,
Walk up to that kind policeman
The very first one you meet
And simply say, “I’ve lost my way,
I cannot find my street,
But I know my name and address
And telephone number too.”
Then he’ll be kind
And help you find
The dear ones who wait for you.

So why am I cruising down memory lane into the distant past? Trayvon Martin’s murder. Seventy-five years later and there is no song of trust for the Trayvon Martins of the 21st century. Seventy-five years later and “that kind policeman” Caesar wrote about is referred to as “PoPo,” “Pig,” “the Man,” and other slang terms that teach us caution and fear, and least of all trust.

Tears filled my eyes and my heart ached when I first heard about Trayvon Martin’s murder; I have four sons and three grandsons. Sadly, in this country, in this century, I worry about them becoming a victim such as what has happened to Martin and his family.

George Zimmerman, Martin’s killer, is a volunteer, neighborhood watch captain and not a police officer. As such, he volunteered to be a person of trust in Martin’s neighborhood to help police keep their community safe. As the truth comes out about Martin’s murder, its clear to me that Zimmerman is the person we need to fear. And yet, the Sanford FL police seem to ignore irrefutable facts (some caught on tape) and have allowed Zimmerman to keep his gun and go back to being captain of the neighborhood watch.

The Sanford police have allowed Zimmerman and his gun to go free under Florida’s “stand your ground law” despite the authors of this self-defense law publicly said it does not apply to Zimmerman, and adding that “Zimmerman should probably be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin.” [Video] More at Miami Herald. The 911 call by Zimmerman reveals he has some serious racial issues by referring to Martin as “f__king coons” and saying “they” always get away.

The real story here is an unarmed African-American teenager walking home, talking to a friend on his cell phone is killed by a racist zealot licensed to carry a gun and allowed to claim self-defense under a law that does not support his claim. There’s no doubt in my mind if Zimmerman’s name was Washington and he was black, he’d be in jail with at least $1 million bond and the only controversy would be whether to charge him with capital felony murder.

Out of this dark storm is a ground swell of outrage and action, demanding that Zimmerman be arrested, immediately. There’s a petition on Change.org that has over 1,129,701 signatures, including mine, and growing. Don’t let this story die without justice being served. Sign the petition started by Martin’s parents and then pass it on to everyone you know.

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