2018 BIAMI Impact Report

THE JOURNEY OF BABA JONES SURVIVOR AND RESPECTED ADVOCATE

A fter surviving a serious motor vehicle accident in 2005, Baxter “Baba” Jones’ life was changed forever. The crash resulted in severe physical and mental injuries as well as lasting impacts including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, neuropathy, blackout episodes, and reliance on a wheelchair for mobility. Prior to the accident, Baba’s passion was rooted firmly in the world of athletics and outdoor adventure – not only as an avid athlete himself, but as a physical education teacher in the Detroit Public Schools and coach for USA and AAU Junior Olympic Track and Field teams. Given his commitment to an active, athletic lifestyle, it’s hardly surprising that after his injuries, Baba became reclusive and susceptible to anger, blame, shame, pity, depression, loneliness, and difficulty in accepting his new reality. That negativity, in turn, affected the progress of his rehabilitation therapy. Fortunately, with the help of his doctors and loved ones, Baba began to adjust to his new lifestyle and decided to try and return to teaching – a process which didn’t end well after two years of diligent effort. Not just one, but three unexpected transfers between schools stressed his ability to cope and his job was eventually terminated under the state government-imposed Emergency Financial Management process. As a result, Baba was stripped of his earned seniority, and most importantly, lost the only job-related medical insurance benefits on which he could depend. That experience underscored Baba’s status as a Person With Disabilities (PWD), and with that status, the harsh realities of ableism, inequity, and discrimination – challenges that in his view parallel the inhumanity of racism. The specifics include his being refused reasonable

accommodations by his employer, denied representation by the teacher’s union, and a complete lack of protection by any governmental “safety net” law, policy, or organization such as Family and Medical Leave Act or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Survivor Baxter “Baba” Jones (L) is pictured with BIAMI President and CEO Tom Constand.

The ensuing downward spiral left him with no income, no insurance, the inability to pay bills, mortgage foreclosure, and a resulting loss of possessions and assets, and even temporary homelessness. Worse, every plea for help seemingly went unanswered. After applying for Social Security benefits, Baba began receiving Social Security Disability and Medicaid insurance by the end of 2011 and Medicare benefits by the end of 2013. With some of his financial and medical burden eased, he was able to focus on learning how to reinvent himself — thanks in part to the community of activists and advocates who rallied around him, his medical caregivers, the Detroit Chapter and statewide support team of BIAMI, and current caregiver Peggy Hong. Baba now serves as Co-Vice President of the Detroit Chapter of BIAMI and Vice Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party Disability Caucus. He remains a respected activist locally, regionally, and nationally, and is proud to be a Brain Injury Survivor.

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