Hines Ward with biracial Korean fans at Heinz Field vs. Minnesota; via the official Steelers website.
This was an interesting read in the New York Times, about Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward and his efforts to help biracial children in South Korea; here's an excerpt:
Steelers receiver Hines Ward surrounded himself with old friends at the dinner table on a recent Saturday night. The bond was as obvious as the look on everyone’s faces — half Korean, half something else. The shared experience was far more than skin deep.
There was a boy who was bullied into depression and tried to commit suicide. There was a girl ordered by a teacher to keep her hair pulled back tight, to straighten the natural curls she inherited from her black father. There was another too intimidated by her taunting classmates to board the bus, choosing instead the humiliating and lonely walk to school. There were the boys who were beaten regularly and teased mercilessly. There were college-age girls who broke into tears when telling their stories of growing up biracial in South Korea.
But when they looked around the table, they saw familiarity. And a future.
“It is so special that no one is staring at me, and no one is asking me about my hair,” Lisa So, 20, said. “It gives me hope.”
The eight boys and girls, between 16 and 21, were visiting Ward from South Korea, where people of mixed races are considered everything from a curiosity to an abomination. What starts with teasing from childhood peers often turns to widespread ostracism and discrimination. It eventually leads to higher dropout, poverty and suicide rates.
“It’s a great culture,” said Ward, who was born in Seoul to a Korean mother and an African-American soldier father, and was raised mainly in Georgia by his mother. “I love everything about it. But there’s a dark side to that culture. And me, I’m just trying to shed a light on that dark side and make Korea a better place than it already is.”
There were a few articles in Korean at the time: two of the longest are from the Segye Ilbo and from Yonhap. A few days ago Newsis covered the New York Times coverage, calling the paper the NT팀스.
Little mention was made in the Pittsburgh media, save for a repost of the NYT article, and this interesting tidbit in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on November 8th:
No one puts on a better charity event than Deshea Townsend. In the past, he has had garage sales where his teammates brought something from their garage for auction. He never did get that Porsche one promised.
This year, he's going after their heads, their helmets, to be precise for his "Black & Gold Art Show" Nov. 23 at Tusca restaurant in the SouthSide Works. Steelers players have either designed or painted their own helmets in unique ways, then autographed them.
Among the more interesting are a certain quarterback's helmet that is painted like a golf ball and has "Roethlisberger 7" on it. Hines Ward had his South Korean kids, who visited a few weeks ago, paint Korean words on his helmet.
You'll find a lot of pictures on the Steelers official site by clicking here, going to the "events" tab, and clicking on the gallery for "2009 Hines Ward Helping Hands Visit."
Unfortunately, I could find no pictures of the helmet, but I hope something turns up after the auction.
Something that was interesting to read were the essays written by students chosen to come to Pittsburgh. You'll find them on the Steelers site, linked to by this write-up of this year's visit. Here's an excerpt from the essay written by Han Min-yeok:
I was born between a Korean mother and American father, which gave me a lifelong tag called “Half-blood”. Growing up in Korea as an Amerasian child required a painful life caused by prejudice and racial discrimination. Kids poured ridicule on me and adults thought that being half-blood itself is reprehensible. Thus, other kids made the wrongs, but their parents blamed me. In these results I asked myself, “What have I done wrong? Why do people hate me?” but I couldn’t find an answer. Moreover, as I became older, prejudice became stronger and people became violent towards me. These events made me very timid and wary towards people, which led me to believe that I am nobody and my life is superfluous. But after I heard about Hines Ward, my heart started to change. The life I lived was painful enough to make me think negative towards the world, which made me believed that half-bloods cannot be successful in this society. However, in 2006, a man named Hines Ward who is half Korean and half American was broadcasted in the news for being the MVP of the Super Bowl game. This brought a great impact to Korea. Many Korean’s misconception towards half-blood changed dramatically, and people started to receive us and understand us as part of them. It was a dream for me that an Amerasian can also be part of the society, but by this event, my dream was about to come true. As a result, I gained hope and courage which made me believe that I can also live my life in pride and that I am also part of this world and I am not a superfluous being.
After time passed by, I gained an opportunity to meet Hines Ward by a group called Pearl S. Buck. Hines picked 8 kids from Korea for trip to America, and I was one of them. My heart fluttered with excitement by the thought that I can meet my hero, who changed my heart from inside out. Moreover, it was my first flight, which made me extra exited. As I imagined, he was a great man, who had the strength to overcome the pain that he went through, and had the hope to gaze upon the future. He went through the same pains and sorrows just like the other half-bloods. But he was strong, and he did not give up. He showed me through himself that if I try my best for the things that I want to do, I will succeed.
At the last day, he told me, “Never give up, Your special. Never be controlled by others but you control yourself”. I will never forget this sentence. He lighted my life and gave me a hope to carry on. A timid little boy who believed that he would always be by himself, now stands straight towards society with the hope given by Ward, lives his life with pride.
The blog ROK Drop has done the best job of covering Ward's charitable work with biracial Koreans since becoming a national icon here. For instance, here's a link to a Peter King CNNSI article from last November, found via this post:
For the third year in a row, the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation is hosting a group of bi-racial South Korean children (there are 11 this year, between 6 and 14) in Pittsburgh. The goal is to build confidence, self-esteem and a strong work ethic in the children, who are often looked down upon by some in their homeland who value racial purity.
Ward has found five families in Pittsburgh who play host to the kids for a week, and he eats dinner with them, takes them to a Steelers’ game and shows them the sights, like the Carnegie Science Center. Ward is the child of a black American serviceman and a Korean woman, and he moved to Georgia as a young child. His current effort stems from a visit he made to Korea as a hero after he was named the Super Bowl MVP three years ago, and a visit he made to a group home for bi-racial children without parents in their lives.
“They were kids left behind, either by servicemen or moms who couldn’t take the prejudice they felt in the society,” said Ward. “My mom was an outcast because she went outside her race to have a child. That’s one of the reasons she moved. When I was there [after the Super Bowl], everyone praised me for my accomplishments, but they shunned the kids. So I wanted to do something to let bi-racial kids know they can have positive lives.”
And a Stars & Stripes article from 2007, found via this post:
Eight Amerasian children from South Korea spent a week in America at the invitation of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.
Ward paid for the children’s air fare and other expenses, said Bae Kyung-hee, an official from Pearl S. Buck International, an organization founded in the mid-1960s to help Asian children who were not eligible for adoption.
The organization assisted Ward in bringing the children to the United States, where they stayed with host families and watched the Steelers play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The children were slated to return early this week.
Ward, whose mother is Korean and whose father is a black American, was voted most valuable player of the Super Bowl in 2006, the first Korean-American to achieve that honor. The 31-year-old was born in Seoul and has been an advocate for the rights of biracial children in South Korea, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The children wrote essays talking about their lives and their dreams prior to visiting Ward.
“You and I have something in common,” said one child. “It was hard for your mother to raise you and it is hard for my mother to raise me too. Because I do not want to make it any harder for my mother, I study very hard, so I can be just like you.”
And a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about the first such visit in 2006:
"Christmas came early for me this weekend," a smiling Mr. Ward said as he greeted the children, ages 9 to 16, and the local families with whom they are staying during their time in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Hines Ward meeting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Pittsburgh in September, from Yonhap via Naver via this post, which has links about his charitable work in South Korea.
No reason, I just really like these throwback jerseys.
Hines Ward is an excellent symbol for Pittsburgh, and a man I hope the city fully appreciates, not simply for his blocking. Give him a key to the city, or whatever it is people do nowadays, for his humanitarian work and for all he's done to give Pittsburgh a good name with millions of people over here.