In The Spotlight: James Hawkins

I love me now but, there was a time in my life when I could not say that. Being born with Albinism in the 1960s was hell for me since all the kids had jokes about my hair color. It felt like everybody was always looking at me and asking “what color are you?” Sometimes I’d answer “what color do you want me to be?”

In 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, I was at the Tennessee school for the Blind in Nashville. I was from Chattanooga. I went back home and people would tell me “we will kill you white bo, if you don’t get out of here”. As I got older, I was trying to talk to a black girl and she told me that she’d go out with me if I painted myself black. I was 14 at the time. I’ll never forget that as long as I love.

I learned to play the keyboard and sing. Music was very important to me in my life, and through music, it made me more confident. At 18, I joined a band called “The Magic Show Band”, both singing and playing the keyboard. The band was all black. People thought I was white because of my Albinism but, that was what made me unique to the band. People recognized the band wherever we went becausue of me. That was when I came upon the realization that my Albinism was a gift frmo God. I had also played for this group called “the impressions”, now an inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1991. Now, I play keyboard and sing in a band called “Fat Penguin”, a reggae funk band and I also work with “Eastwind Band”, doing the same thing. We wrote a song called “America” in 2003 and sent it to, then, president Bush and even current president Obama. Outside of bands, I also played keyboard for my church, the First Baptist Church Roseberry City in Knoxville.

One day, I would love to live in a world where we see eachother as people, and not colors.

My name is James Hawkins from Knoxville, Tennesee and, I love me now.