After surviving a serious motor vehicle accident in 2005, Baxter “Baba” life was changed forever. The crash resulted in Baba sustaining a traumatic brain injury and a spinal cord injury. As a result of his severe injuries, Baba suffers from residual physical, cognitive and emotional changes and must rely 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 as a coach for both USA and AAU Junior Olympic Track and Field teams. Given his commitment to an active, athletic lifestyle, Baba had a lot of difficulty adjusting to his “new normal.” He became reclusive and susceptible to anger, blame, shame, pity, depression, and loneliness. Looking back, Baba indicated that his negative attitude toward life affected his progress in rehabilitation.
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. His job was eventually terminated under the State of Michigan Emergency Financial Management process. As a result of his termination, Baba was stripped of his earned seniority, and most importantly, lost his only source of medical insurance as it was tied to his employment.
Losing his job underscored Baba’s status as a Person With Disabilities (PWD), a situation marked by the harsh realities of ableism, inequity, and discrimination. As an activist and advocate, Baba feels these challenges parallel the inhumanity of racism. Specifically he was refused reasonable accommodations by his employer, denied representation by the teacher’s union, and felt complete lack of protection by any governmental “safety net” law, policy, or organization. His dire situation left him with no income, no health insurance, an inability to pay bills, mortgage foreclosure, loss of possessions and assets, and temporarily homelessness. It felt like every plea for help seemingly went unanswered.
In 2011, Baba applied for and was granted Social Security Disability and also qualified for Medicaid insurance. Two years later, he began receiving Medicare benefits as well. With some of his financial burden eased and the opportunity to receive medical treatment available once more, Baba 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 his current caregiver Peggy Hong.
Baba now serves as co-vice chair of the BIAMI Detroit Chapter and vice chair of the MDPDC Michigan Democratic Party Disability Caucus. He remains a respected activist locally, regionally, and nationally, and is proud to be a brain injury survivor.