*Fearless environmental activist Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Ph.D., recounts her bold stand against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) corrupt and racist policies in her forthcoming memoir, No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2011, 454 pages).
As a young black Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-educated scientist, Coleman-Adebayo landed her dream job at the EPA, working with former Vice President Al Gore’s special commission to assist post-apartheid South Africa. But when she tried to get the government to investigate allegations that a multi-national corporation was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of South Africans mining vanadium – a vital metallic mineral – the agency stonewalled, and Coleman-Adebayo blew the whistle.
Little did she know however, that the EPA would retaliate using every racist and sexist trick in their playbook. Coleman-Adebayo tells the story of telephone threats like a graphic message on what she thought was her secure cell phone line: “I am going to f**k you so hard that I will break off my d**k in your p***y.” Two callers made insinuations about her children, noting how they were being observed playing in front of her house. She made a calculated decision to keep the phone threats from her husband, and sought the counsel of her pastor. This book is about her harrowing and inspiring story.
Despite the looming danger to her family, Coleman-Adebayo knew that the EPA continued to sacrifice more lives in the vanadium mines of South Africa. Her relentless fight against the injustice eventually brought about an upwelling of support from others in federal bureaucracies who were fed up with the EPA’s crushing repression. It also brought support from activists like Reverend Al Sharpton and actor Danny Glover, with Sharpton leading No FEAR Coalition leaders in a march on Senator Joseph Lieberman’s office to solicit his support. The result of the author’s courageous undertaking waged a two-year-long battle with Congress over the need to protect whistleblowers, and legislated the “Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002. In short, the No FEAR Act.
Upon prevailing in court, Coleman-Adebayo organized a grassroots movement to bring protection to all federal employees (I certainly understand and appreciate the significance of the movement…the No Fear Act could have protected me some 30 years ago when I faced similar threats and retaliation as an employee of the Department of Defense [Dennis Moore v. Susan Tsui Grundman]). Federal government agencies tend to circle the wagons when their policies and guidelines are questioned or challenged as in this case and others like Diane R. Williams v. Gene L. Dodaro.
It is ironic that Carol Browner, former head of the EPA during the Clinton administration, and the named defendant in Adebayo v. Browner, was appointed to the position of Climate Czar by President Barack Obama. President Obama stated in his introduction of her: “This time it has to be different. This time we cannot fail, nor can we be lulled into complacency…that’s why I’m naming Carol Browner to a new position in the White House to coordinate energy and climate policy. She brings the unmatched experience of being a successful and longest-serving administrator of the EPA. She will be indispensable in implementing an ambitious and complex energy policy. We can’t afford complacency nor accept more broken promises.” This book by Coleman-Adebayo certainly begs to differ!
In a telephone interview with Coleman-Adebayo, she states in regard to Carol Browner and the federal government: “Nothing is going to change. It doesn’t matter if you break the law, it doesn’t matter if you are roundly condemned by Congress.” She further stated in her book: “The very woman I prevailed against in court is being elevated to a White House decision[making]-level position.”
About the book, TIME Magazine said, “Inside Marsha Coleman-Adebayo there’s a streak of Rosa Parks. Certainly, her decade-long struggle to clean up the racially toxic atmosphere at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could make history.”
The author tells a compelling story of corruption and retaliation in government. It is a must read that I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and a former employee of the Department of Defense. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter at @DennisMoore8.