- By Catherine A. TraywickCatherine A. Traywick is a fellow at Foreign Policy.
The rapper Macklemore’s body may have been at the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday. But in the wake of supertyphoon Haiyan, his heart was evidently in the Philippines… or, at least, in "the Philippians." In an unfortunately misspelled but surely well-intentioned tweet sent during the awards ceremony, the hip-hop artist informed his Twitter followers: "Over 10,000 people died as a result of the typhoon in the Philippians… If you want to help those affected go to http://nafconusa.org."
He quickly tweeted a correction, in which he implicated iPhone’s autocorrect feature and his "6th grade teacher" for the spelling error. But that’s beside the point. More interesting is his choice of aid organization: Not the Red Cross or UNICEF — both of which are on the ground adminstering aid — but NAFCON, a small alliance of grassroots Filipino groups in the U.S. that is also affiliated with a number of left-leaning, nationalist political groups in the Philippines.
While it’s true that NAFCON is fervently raising funds to provide disaster relief assistance to affected communities in the Philippines, its work is occuring largely under the radar. So how did Macklemore, a rapper from Seattle, even hear about the group?
Credit might go to another Washington-based artist with whom he’s collaborated: Geo of the Blue Scholars (A.KA. Prometheus Brown A.K.A. George Quibuyen). He’s a vocalist, long time Filipino-American activist, and frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy; in one song, he characterizes it as "imperial aggression." NAFCON wouldn’t confirm the connection, but did say that members were grateful for the shout-out and had no hard feelings about the misspelling. Following Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, which killed about 800 people, NAFCON delivered 700 boxes of food and emergency supplies to some of the hardest hit communities in the country.
According to the most recent figures, the typhoon has killed 1,774 people since making landfall on Friday, and many expect casualties to reach as high as 10,000. Which means the Philippines will need the help… wherever it comes from.