No Fear: A Whistleblower's Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA

Published on September 01, 2011

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No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA


By Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Published September 1, 2011
Chicago Review Press
Distributed by Independent Publishers Group


As a young, black, MIT-PhD social scientist, Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo landed her dream job at the EPA, working with Al Gore, assisting post-apartheid South Africa. But when she tried to get the government to investigate allegations that a U.S. multinational corporation was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of South Africans mining vanadium—a vital strategic mineral–she found that the EPA was the first line of defense for the corporation. When the agency stonewalled, Coleman-Adebayo blew the whistle.

How could she know that the agency with a hippie-like logo would use every racist and sexist trick in their playbook in retaliation? The EPA cost her her career, endangered her family, and sacrificed more lives in the vanadium mines of South Africa—but also brought about an upwelling of support from others in the federal bureaucracy who were fed up with its crushing repression.

Upon prevailing in court, Coleman-Adebayo organized a grassroots struggle to bring protection to all federal employees facing discrimination and retribution from the government. The No FEAR Coalition that she organized waged a two-year-long battle with Congress over the need to protect whistleblowers—and won. This book is her harrowing story.

Table of Contents

  1. Welcome to EPA: Consider Yourself an Honorary White Man
  2. The Fourth UN World Conference on Women, Beijing: “Call Me Bella”
  3. Ultimatum to Public Service
  4. The Gore-Mbeki Commission: The Sound That Freedom Makes
  5. Alexandra: The Sacrifice Zone
  6. Who Are You Calling a Necklacer?
  7. Why Waste MIT on People Like That?
  8. My Name is Jacob Ngakane
  9. Back to MIT
  10. Breathing College Air
  11. Barnard College: The Path Sisters Take
  12. MIT: The Vortex of Minds and Hearts
  13. Ethiopa: The Good Mother
  14. Retaliation at EPA
  15. Something Deeper Than Words
  16. Presidents of the United States: The Playbook
  17. Last Obstacle to the End Run
  18. Yes, Clarice
  19. The 1998 Trip to South Africa: My Tongue Is Green
  20. Death Threats and Missed Opportunities
  21. Coleman-Adebayo v. Carol M. Browner
  22. Betrayal Is Best Served Cold
  23. Discrimination or Disappointment
  24. The Verdict
  25. Can You Hear Me?
  26. Behind Closed Doors: The Browner- NAACP Meeting
  27. Congressional Hearings: Intolerance at EPA
  28. A Call to History
  29. Journey to No FEAR
  30. Al Sharpton: The X Factor
  31. Vanadium
  32. Breathing African Air


“A remarkable book: absolute must reading for anyone who cares about civil rights, whistleblowers, and justice.”
-Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director, National Whistleblowers Center

“Intensely gripping. . . . Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo’s story refuses to leave the reader’s memory. She is a cool force of nature whose example teaches how to stand down fear and victoriously stand up for what is right. More will be right when others join her.”
-Ralph Nader

“The No Fear Act is the most significant civil rights development since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the Rosa Parks of the 21st century, and her memoir is the most important black narrative since The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
-Congressman Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy

“…an inspiring and worthwhile trek through one woman’s brave battle against a system favoring the powerful.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“The story weaves personal reflection, policy discussions, court transcripts, and legislative maneuverings, making for an engaging…narrative of a public servant’s rise and fall and eventual triumph.”
-Publishers Weekly

“An important account of Coleman’s discovery of an egregious wrong and her courageous battle to fix it.”
-Randall Robinson, author of The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks

“Marsha Coleman-Adebayo’s account of cowardice and betrayal at the EPA demonstrates that heroines like herself are indeed necessary. . . . The same agency that facilitated the poisoning of miners and their families in South Africa allows its own citizens to sicken and die for the sake of corporate profits. Do not ask for whom the whistle blows—it blows for all of us.”
-Glen Ford, executive editor, Black Agenda Report

“The beauty of the rendering of the many stories that Marsha Coleman-Adebayo tells here does not diminish the ugliness of their content nor their import for honest American officials, and for conscientious American consumers. It is sometimes willful ignorance, and sometimes not, that shrouds some of the bases of our wealth, power, and privileges, and the sometimes murderous impact of the complicated and obscure machinery that produces them.

“There are many dimensions and layers of duplicity, deception and desecration involved in these stories – ones that despite their distinctiveness, are like the separate threads in a common cloth, that conceals and encapsulates, like a body bag, the decay and stench that are the legacies of the agony and death of so many workers around the world. Marsha’s experiences are especially relevant to workers at mostly American owned vanadium mines in South Africa. And that is only one dimension of American complicity, over many years, in the oppressiveness of South African history.

“The struggle for decent and safe working conditions, and fair returns, for those South African miners, like most others in South African society, and elsewhere, is far from over. Marsha’s insider’s account, told with startling clarity, is a call to action. Her courageous accomplishments, especially with the No Fear Legislation and Coalition, have helped to fortify and protect those who take up that call!”
-Dr. Willard R. Johnson, MIT Professor Emeritus of Political Science

“Marsha Coleman-Adebayo clearly and engagingly tells us Americans a truth that we might not want to hear but should.”
-Dal LaMagna, author of Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right

“Dr. Coleman-Adebayo presents the public a trenchant critique of how the US government too often not only turns a blind eye, but also enables the worst kinds of human rights practices by its multinational corporations abroad. Her unique insider position and her principled commitment were what made her dangerous to the federal bureaucracy. Thankfully, she did not give up. This book is a must-read if you’re concerned with government accountability and want a rare inside look at the toll willful government negligence can take on individuals, families, and communities.”
-Danielle Brian, president, Project on Government Oversight (POGO)

“I take my hat off to Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who had the guts to challenge her superiors. . . . How I wish my fellow governments of Africa would emulate her good example. Her contribution in exposing the wrongdoings by a South African company in dealing with dangerous toxins will serve as a lesson for would-be investors in the future.”
Honorable Bantu Holomisa, member of Parliament, South Africa, and president of the United -Democratic Movement

“This is the story of Marsha Coleman-Adebayo’s courageous struggle against vested interests and an obdurate bureaucracy to ensure that US government agencies and officials conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the high ideals embodied in the US Constitution—and in ours.”
-Richard Spoor, Esq., human rights advocate and employment attorney, South Africa

“Marsha has, through her memoirs, demonstrated no fear of serving and protecting the integrity of her country, whatever the price she paid. . . . This book should enable an internal cleansing of the EPA. A must-read.”
-Jacob Ngakane, former union official, Congress of South African Trade Unions

“Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo approached our community with an urgent request to investigate the poisoning of defenseless residents of the vanadium mining city of Brits, South Africa. Barnard, with its tradition of producing strong and responsible women leaders, rose to the challenge. The students and two professors who accompanied Dr. Coleman-Adebayo experienced a life-changing opportunity to provide insightful research and leadership to this critical problem.”
-Dr. Judith Shapiro, former president, Barnard College

“The Barnard community is built upon a foundation of strong and committed women who are willing to take a stand for what they believe in, despite the challenges they face. Marsha spoke up for change and was struck down. Thank you, Marsha, for fighting back and being a role model for all those who will not be silenced by a bureaucracy of inertia and failed policies. Marsha’s courage in the face of overwhelming intimidation not only demonstrates her strength of character but also inspires others to take action to change our world.”
-Marilyn Chin, former director, Barnard College, Office of Alumnae Affairs

“I was president of the Montgomery County NAACP during the trial of Dr. Coleman-Adebayo. I was proud to stand with Marsha at Freedom Plaza when the civil and human rights community said “enough is enough.” If Marsha and the No FEAR Coalition, through sheer guts and intestinal fortitude could change the federal government just think what hundreds of thousands of people could do to change this country. It you’re interested in justice and human rights, this book is required reading!”
-Linda Plummer, past president, NAACP Montgomery County

“I stood behind the President of the United States while he signed the No FEAR Act. It was a bitter sweet moment. But for an assassin’s bullet, my friend and mentor Dr. King would have been there, rejoicing at the signing of the first civil rights law of the 21st century. Teachers, historians, law students and workers must read this book.”
-Dr. Ruby Reece Moone, president, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)/Maryland State Unit

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