People First: Make your own choices

Self-advocate Bernard Baker believes People First makes a real difference in the lives of its members.


I helped start People First in Georgia in 1991 because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

We have 65 people in our Atlanta chapter and about 700 total for the state. I am an officer.

People First offers members friendship, peer support, respect and a sense of belonging and accomplishment. I get to see my efforts making a real difference in people’s lives. We support one another and make a difference in our community.

Our advisers are Cheri Mitchell, Linda Pogue and Stacy Ramirez.

Being a self-advocate means you speak up for yourself and others, and you get to make your own choices.

In our People First chapter we are working on several issues, including the marriage penalty, employment (real jobs for real pay) and the Medicaid “buy in” so people with disabilities don’t hit the glass ceiling and can make real money and still have services.

We’re also working on transportation, increased services and housing.

We raise money for People First through fundraisers like dances, raffles, donations and a flea market.

I am also a member of ADAPT and the Region 6 representative for SABE, or Self Advocates Becoming Empowered.

ADAPT Georgia is part of the national organization that is fighting for accessibility and community-based attendant services. Groups cover cities, states and regions. but there are many lone warriors out there, too.

SABE is a self-advocacy organization founded in 1990 to promote full inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in the community. There are nine regional SABE organizations.

I was born in Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., in1958 to Emma and Sherman Baker. My father is still alive, but my mother passed away.

I have five brothers and two sisters.

Their names are Ricky, Micheal, Titus, Xavier, Darren, Trina and Peaches. All of them live in Atlanta.

I see them about about once every three months

I graduated from Walter F. George High School in 1977.

I live in my own apartment with roommates.

I do travel training for public transportation and set up transportation for different events.

For fun I like working as a DJ. I also like to go to church and the movies and hang with friends.

My friends would say my best quality is that I am an advocate and believe in giving people a chance. I am also an interpreter for people with speech impairments. My friends would say I help people find their voice.

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