How the Media Talks about Tragedy in Developing Countries and Why it’s Crucial to Relief Efforts

To help those affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan, visits,,, or contact the Filipino American Student Organization at to participate in relief efforts in Madison, WI. 

Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated the Philippines on November 8th, 2013 and left close to 4,000 people dead. Although the storm is over, survivors of the typhoon continue to die. Thousands of people in the middle region of the Philippine Islands are left dealing with the loss of their families and homes while trying to survive with little food, power and clean water supply.

Image from:

In the Philippines, the World Food Program says a quarter of the people are in dire need of food in the typhoon-battered central parts of the country still have not received it. Eleven days after the storm hit, the government says some 5,600 people are dead or missing (3,982 people killed, 1,602 missing).

Just days following the super typhoon, various news outlets started releasing articles focused on the violence and crime taking place in Tacloban and surrounding areas.

Reuters writes, “eight people were crushed to death when looters raided rice stockpiles in a government warehouse in the town of Alangalang, causing a wall to collapse, local authorities said.” Looting has a negative connotation and it’s use was the subject of much controversy during Hurricane Katrina coverage. A photo of young black man carrying food was described as “looting,” whereas a photo of a white couple carrying food was described as “finding.”

Another article by CNN discusses prison breakout threats, looting and violence long before it illustrates how people can help. Even then, relief effort and support is diminished to a single link at the bottom of the page.

A World News article announced that the World Bank offered a loan of $500 million to the Philippines. The article focused on rebuilding the affected areas, however, many of the comments posted below the story carried on a debate about lending money and whether lesser developed countries deserve foreign aid.

Map provided by The New Republic illustrating the size of the super typhoon in relation to the U.S. and The Philippines.

Map provided by The New Republic illustrating the size of the super typhoon in relation to the U.S. and The Philippines.

Although not all news coverage or comments about the Philippines are negative, articles such as the ones above create a skewed perception of the Filipino people. Here are a few things to keep in mind when discussing the Super Typhoon Haiyan and The Philippines:

1. The Philippines is a lesser developed country and has many disadvantages, such as poor infrastructure, poverty, lasting effects of previous colonization, its geographical location and corrupt government officials, which prevented the Filipino people from adequate preparation.

2. This is one of the largest storms ever recorded, and one of three category 5 typhoons that has hit The Philippines since 2010. These storms over time continued to weaken and eventually destroyed the Philippines’ already poor infrastructure.

3. Recovery doesn’t happen in a day. It will takes years for the Philippines to rebuild and resume their lives. Even two years after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Japan is still rebuilding. Ensuring that dialogue remains about relief efforts is critical for recovery.

4. Tragedy should not provoke a political debate about whether developed countries should provide relief for lesser developed countries. The survival of other human beings should not rely on your position on foreign aid. AF3IRM, an anti-imperialist feminist organization writes, “In these last weeks we have seen blows struck by an outraged Earth — not against nations that contribute the most to global warming and pollution; nations which have imposed a “development” predicated on the ruthless despoliation of sea, soil and mountain;  nations which have warped the age-old harmony between humanity and nature;  but rather blows have been struck at the most vulnerable and hapless of nations like the Philippines. ” Their statement pushes the idea that Super Typhoon Haiyan is more than just a storm, it’s a tragedy that continues to build on previous misfortunes. Their statement echoes the injustice during such tragedies in all lesser developed nations.

To read the entire statement by AF3IRM: For the Typhoon Victims, Charity Must be Followed by Justice.

For more information about the devastation in the Phillipines, check out these helpful links:
Maps that Explain Why the Typhoon hit the Phillipines so Hard
What if Typhoon Haiyan Hit the United States?
An Interactive Map of the Typhoon

Job Board: November 22, 2013

UW Madison-School of Business, Managing Editor

Application Due: December 13, 2013

Job Description: Persons in this position will work closely with the Integrated Marketing Communication unit and other faculty and staff within the Wisconsin School of Business. Main focuses will be on editorial content management for communications, including working on the Wisconsin School of Business alumni magazine, Update magazine.

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Building Camaraderie: NPHC Potluck


by: Elton Ferdinand III, MSC Greek Life Specialist Intern

There is an importance for community building between student organizations and students of color on campus. At a university like UW-Madison, people of color are often lumped together as one entity and given the same restrictions because of what others in their community may have done. We are individuals, but we may represent a larger group of people as well. We must realize we are comrades in the same struggle and have the same goals for our personal betterment.

Take the NPHC, for example. The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is comprised of nine historically African American, international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities. NPHC was founded May 10, 1930 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. One of the primary purposes of the council is to build unity and academic excellence between the organizations. For me, unity is being united or connected to a larger body. Camaraderie is a collective trust and friendship of people who are connected to each other. Camaraderie is a thoroughly flushed out definition of unity; it is what a council should strive toward.

To help build upon this primary purpose, on November 15th a Potluck between the council was held in the Center for Cultural Enrichment. At the potluck, each organization had to bring a snack, a main dish and a beverage of their choosing to feed at least 25 members. This is how many collective organizations function, with everyone contributing their part and coming together.

At the event, the group played a Rock Paper Scissors Competition game. In this game, the “loser” of an individual match-up becomes part of the cheering section for the “victor” as they move on to their next match. By the end of the game, the final match-up is surrounded by a cheering crowd. The game shows the importance of support and encouragement for each other and what happens when people move past their own “losses” to support others within their community.

Job Board of November 15

Environmental Analysis & Review Specialist – Advanced,

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Deadline: November 17, 2013

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is seeking candidates to fill Environmental Analysis and Review Specialist – Advanced positions. Currently two openings exist in the Division of Transportation System Development’s Bureau of Technical Services that serve as Environment Process and Documentation Specialists.  These positions are located at the Hill Farms State Transportation Building in Madison.

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Event Announcement: 2nd CURLFRIENDS meeting!


The African American Student Academic Services, along with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. are hosting the 2nd CURLFRIENDS meeting on Monday, November 18, 2013 at 6:30pm in Ogg Residence Hall.

This month is focusing on “DIY Hair Butters/Creams” with one of our guest naturalistas, UW-Madison’s own Nailah Frye and “Yarn Braids/Twists” with TaShonda Townsell, a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.! They’ll present their journeys, expertise and care tips as we engage in some CURLY discussions!

See you there, Curlfriends!

P.S. All hair types are welcome!!!

Job Board of November 8, 2013

Racial Justice Youth Organizer, GSAFE

Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE) is hiring a Racial Justice Youth Organizer to create, implement, and evaluate our new Madison Racial Justice Program. This program is focused on building the leadership of LGBTQ youth of color in Madison public high schools.  Specifically, the Racial Justice Youth Organizer will: Work with students from the program to train student of color clubs on LGBTQ issues, in an effort to make more safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ youth of color.

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Musical Ensemble Strikes the Right Chords at Passing the Mic.


by: MSC Communications Intern, Hiwot Adilow

In October I had the incredible honor of performing in the Passing the Mic Festival with Taylor Scott, a Junior here at UW and First Wave Scholar. This year’s festival included tributes to First Waver John Vietnam Nguyen, Gil Scott-Heron, and Professor Richard Davis. Taylor is also the lead organizer for a musical ensemble that will be performing  during April’s Linebreaks Festival. I asked her a bit about how the idea came about and her hopes for the ensemble.

Taylor Scott and Nathan France performing a tribute piece to John Vietnam Nguyen

Taylor Scott and Nathan France performing a tribute piece to John Vietnam Nguyen

Hiwot Adilow: What encouraged you to move towards forming this ensemble?

Taylor Scott: A group of First Wavers went to the UK in the summer of 2012. and had the opportunity of performing in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. Although I am from Baton Rouge, it was the first time I felt truly submerged in jazz culture. It was also the first time I had been accompanied by a live band and the feeling was unforgettable. I shared that stage with John Vietnam, my cohort brother, who passed away in the beginning of my sophomore year.


Performers listen to Prof. Davis speak from the audience. Photographed are UW students, poet Dasha Kelly, Gia Scott-Heron, and students from Chicago’s Kuumba Lynx.

Passing the Mic (PTM), an annual event hosted by the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI), was dedicated to John that year. A group of women singers and emcees got together and created this tribute with Madison’s New Breed band. This performance was the buzz of the semester and I couldn’t see the momentum die. I wrote a proposal for the 2014 Line Breaks Festival and in that proposal, I expressed my interest in starting a music ensemble.


Left to Right: Robert Schovile, Ben Ferris, Paul Hastil

HA: What role did this year’s PTM play in relation to music (particularly jazz) on campus?

TS: High school students and established artists from across the country come to participate in PTM festivities. This year, PTM’s main event featured a music ensemble that merged jazz and hip hop; the ensemble included UW students, Paul Hastil on piano, and Robert Schoville on drums. The merging of these genres also merged generations together. The audience included students and of the University, Kuumba Lynx, members of Madison’s Urban League, and members of the Madison Jazz Consortium.

HA: This year, PTM included a number of tributes and among those honored was Professor Richard Davis. How did the tribute to Prof. Davis shape ideas for the musical ensemble?

TS: The Madison jazz scene needs more diversity. In the tribute to Professor Davis, we brought both the intergenerational and multicultural aspects of jazz to this community. Professor Davis has so much wisdom to impart on any aspiring artist and we hope to build stronger connections with him and others alike.

Photographs courtesy of UMOJA Magazine. The ensemble will be performing at the Line Breaks Festival in April 2014. For more info on the project, contact Taylor directly:

Taylor Scott
Programming Support Specialist
Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives
UW Madison Undergraduate
First Wave Scholar 
The JVN Project