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Marsha Coleman Adebayo

Government Transparency and Accountability, Director
Branch: Democracy
Current Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo received her BA degree from Barnard College/Columbia University and her doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblower’s Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) She is currently serving as the Chairperson of the No FEAR Institute and No FEAR Coalition.

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo was a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of the Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She has held various academic positions as Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University – School of Foreign Studies, Visiting Scholar, George Mason University- Department of African-American Studies and Assistant Professor, The American University.

On August 18, 2000, Dr. Coleman-Adebayo won an historic lawsuit against the EPA on the basis of race, sex, color discrimination, and a hostile work environment. She subsequently testified before Congress on two occasions. As a result, the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act [No FEAR] was introduced by Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee ( D-TX) and Senator John Warner (R- VA). Along with the No FEAR Coalition, she ushered the No FEAR Bill through Congress. President George W. Bush signed the No FEAR Act into law. Thousands of federal workers and their families have directly benefited from this law.

From the floor of the US Senate after the unanimous vote on the No FEAR Act, Senator John Warner called Dr. Coleman-Adebayo and told her, ”young lady, I am calling you from the well of the Senate floor. The United States Senate has just passed the No FEAR Act, the first civil rights law of this century – you have made history. Congratulations!”

The No Fear Act serves society by making it possible for federal employees to raise red flags when they see misconduct. The government should be a leader in protecting employee rights, and the new law will push it in that direction. Lives around the world are placed at risk when workers must chose between their livelihoods and their moral duty to speak out.

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo is the founder of the No FEAR Institute (a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization). The No FEAR Institute is devoted to educating the American public about federal sector discrimination and the implementation of the No FEAR Act. The No FEAR Institute co-sponsored two symposiums on vanadium poisoning in South Africa and New York.

The No Fear Institute provides a forum for voices against retaliation and harassment. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo is also the founder of the No FEAR Coalition. The No FEAR Coalition is a grouping of civil rights and whistleblower organizations that fight for increased legislative protections for federal employees. In addition to protecting victims of race and sex discrimination, the No FEAR law also provides protection to whistleblowers: employees who expose waste, fraud and abuse.

Every year this organization convenes a national conference under the auspices of a Member of Congress called: Whistleblower Week in Washington (W3) during which a national Tribunal takes place. W3 provides a rare opportunity for Congress to meet with the people most needing their attention — working people — who are subordinate to their employers and are largely powerless to effect policy as individuals. Witness after witness testify to their first hand experiences of hazardous, illegal, and unsafe conditions in the workplace, hoping that the veracity of their testimony and the courage they display in presenting it will move the press to circulate their stories widely and move Congress to honor their struggle and suffering through legislative action.

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblower’s Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. The book, an expose and memoir, explores her experiences at EPA, the federal court trial, and work with vanadium mine workers in South Africa. She is also one of the producers, along with actor/activist Danny Glover on a dramatic film based on her acclaimed book.

Good Housekeeping Magazine in 2003 selected her as their “Woman of the Year.”
The National Whistleblower Center has characterized her as one of the most influential “truth-tellers” in the country. She was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) in June 2007. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) recognized Dr. Coleman-Adebayo’s leadership in the civil rights movement at its 50th anniversary gala in Atlanta, Ga. Time Magazine compared her to civil rights hero Rosa Parks and she is called the Mother of the first civil rights act of the 21st century.

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo’s troubles at EPA were most intense when she served as the liaison to the White House on the Gore-Mbeki Commission, a Clinton administration foreign policy program with South Africa. After she reported that an American company exposed its African miners and their families to vanadium dust, a deadly substance, she was relieved of her responsibilities on the Commission. Her efforts to conduct an investigation were stifled and she was made a target of personal abuse. Workers in vanadium mines develop life threatening diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, liver and kidney disorders, and cancers. Their tongues turn green and black, and they bleed. Racial epithets were hurled at her by senior officials and she received threatening phone calls at home.

Despite government efforts to restrain her investigation, as a private citizen, she led an independent team of doctors to investigate the deaths in Brits. In May 2003, she led another team of students and faculty to South Africa from Barnard and Smith Colleges to investigate the crisis of vanadium workers. Coleman-Adebayo received an award for Outstanding Commitment to Global Health and Development from Harvard University.

She Chaired the Sustainable Development and Environment Expert Group for the National Summit on Africa and was the Executive Secretary for the US/South Africa Bi National Commission (Gore-Mbeki Commission). In addition to her work in South Africa, Dr.Coleman-Adebayo was selected as the chief environmental negotiator for the US Delegation to the UN Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China. She represented the EPA to UN technical agencies, such as UNDP, United Nations Industrial Organization and UNEP. She was awarded a Vice Presidential Award for her leadership in designing a cooperative relationship with the American Hospital Association to reduce mercury emissions from hospitals and clinics.

As a result of her academic and practical knowledge of how the US Congress functions, she was recruited by the United Nations Development Program’s United Nations Sudano Sahelian Office (UNSO). Dr. Coleman-Adebayo provided leadership for this office in the area of US Congressional relations, in which she was able to successfully achieve an earmark of funds as well as Congressional recognition of UNSO’s work. In addition,
she managed a portfolio of over $20 million dollars, negotiated with donor countries and organizations to provide financial, personnel and material support to programs under her management. She directly managed three fuelwood projects, in war-time Ethiopia. She negotiated with rebel leaders to ensure the safety of her Ethiopian and international staff. She briefly volunteered in a refugee camp during a famine.

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation as its Senior Research Analyst and Director of the CBCF Fellows Program. She provided research for Members of Congress in the areas of Africa/ Caribbean policies. She also directed the CBCF Fellows Program, A program created to increase the number of African Americans working as professional staff in the U.S. Congress.

Dr. Coleman-Adebayo has been featured in a host of newspapers, such as, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Government Executive and Federal Times. She is a wife and mother of two children.