Robdarius Brown, stage name Roben X, knows loneliness. He was born 18 years ago to loving parents in Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States. His family never treated him differently. The outside world however, was not so kind.
Brown was born with oculocutaneous albinism, a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition which most commonly results in the lack of melanin pigment in the hair, skin and eyes. He says that the sun hurts his eyes and makes it difficult to see; that his skin is white because he has no protection from the sun and a day at the beach burns him; and that every day he lives in fear of skin cancer. He was bullied his entire young life and felt heartbroken for most of his childhood.
A few years ago, Brown was interviewed by a local news station in his hometown about his love for music and the bullying and attacks he endured because of his albinism. He wanted to share his story with the world. He just graduated high school and has come into his own; he is an entertainer, a model, and an albinism and anti-bullying activist.
"What made me speak up for young people and people with albinism was to give them someone to look to if they needed guidance or help. I wanted to make a difference because I know what it feels like to be alone… to feel that you’re the only person in the room even though you’re surrounded by a crowd of people," he says.
Music is an essential part of Brown’s life. When he was younger, it was a way for him to relieve his pain. He says becoming a rapper helped him gain self-confidence and in turn, make friends. "I connected with songs that helped me through my hardships."
Brown often visits schools to give inspirational talks to young students against bullying. During those encounters, he also tries to enlighten people about albinism. "While I was speaking at one of the schools, a young lady asked me if I identified as white or black. I simply said: "white chocolate" because I feel it shouldn’t matter. I identify as African-American but we’re all part of the same race, the human race," he says with a tinge of humour.
Brown says that he shares many of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. "Like Article 19 that talks about everyone having the freedom to express themselves. I firmly agree with that though there have been times in this country when that has been thrown out of the window, but that doesn’t change the fact that I agree."
In 2015, Brown had already shown his commitment to the values of the Universal Declaration by becoming an
Albinism Champion for UN human Rights. He was part of a campaign to raise awareness of the rights of people with albinism around the world.
For Brown, change start with oneself. "To change your community and to change your peers you must have that kind of energy that will show other people that: "OK, that person is willing to get it out of the mud, they’re willing to go that extra mile," he says. "Eventually people will join your cause because they see that you’re passionate. You can paint that picture for them."