Nehemiah Bester’s 12 Must-Reads of 2021

A collection from the ACLU of Maryland.

I compiled a list of 12 compelling, thought-provoking, and inspiring must-reads from this past year. These stories are shared experiences from the voices of our community, a deeper reflection of the progress of 2021, and an acknowledgment of the work that is to come.

1. Maryland Police Must Stop Playing ICE Chronicles the unlawful traffic stop of Sara Medrano, a Latina grandmother along with her daughter and two grandchildren by a Frederick County sheriff’s deputy who wanted to try and transfer her to ICE for deportation. And the reason for this stop? The color of her skin.

Person is writing on a banner on a table. Photo Credit: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

2. I Want To See What Freedom Looks Like Follows the activism, tribulations, and self-advocacy in the lives of two daring Black women: Tawanda Jones and Ashley Overbey Underwood. Their advocacy is not only to save Black lives from police violence, but also to bring awareness of its seldom mentioned effects on the lives of Black women.

Ashley Overbey Underwood quote, "Don't let no one silence you. Your voice is all you have, so use it. That's your power."

3. What Happened In Atlanta Is Not An Isolated Event As a story describing the awful events on March 16, 2021, when a gunman opened fire at three spa locations in Atlanta, GA, this piece also offers perspective on the deadly racial history against Asian American and Pacific Islanders for centuries, and what we must do to address and overcome it.

Person at a rally holds a sign behind their back that says, "Stop AAPI hate." Photo credit: Meredith Curtis Goode/ACLU-MD

4. George Floyd And Anton Black: Parallel Lives While the Black experience is distinctively nuanced, there are also mortal patterns in the lives of many, particularly when it comes to police violence. This essay explores the striking similarities of the disturbing police murders of George Floyd and Anton Black and why their shared fate is not a coincidence.

Illustrated painting of Anton Black.

5. Talbot Confederate Statue: A Racist History The infamous legacy of enslavement can be considered America’s greatest evil, so why did Maryland still have a monument on public land honoring those who fought for it? This in-depth dive into the racist history of the Talbot Confederate Statue asks and provides necessary commentary to this very question.

Move the Monument rally photo of a group marching down the street with a yellow banner. Photo credit: Amber Taylor.

6. 90 Years Protecting Civil Rights, Challenging Racism This was a special year! 2021 marked the 90th anniversary of the ACLU of Maryland’s mission of protecting civil liberties, civil rights, and advancing racial justice. 90 years from now let’s ensure that we have dismantled white supremacy and finally realized rights for all Marylanders.

Photo of Dana Vickers Shelley on the right and John Henderson on the left. The ACLU of Maryland 90th anniversary logo is in the middle.

7. Black Trans Lives Matter Highlights the important work of TLBGTQ Baltimore Safe Haven and its 2nd Annual Black Trans Lives Matter march. As an organization of intersectionality and inclusivity, they pride themselves on housing programs, providing food, and creating safe spaces where people can grow and live free from trans and homophobic violence and oppression.

Baltimore Safe Haven banner and FreeState Justice vertical sign. There is a rainbow flag in the middle. Photo credit: Nicole McCann/ACLU-MD

8. Blame State Inaction For The Condition Of Baltimore Schools Calls attention to the state government’s official role in and responsibility for the dangerous and outdated infrastructure of Baltimore schools. No child should be burdened by faulty heating and cooling systems or the decay of the very walls around them, and still be expected to learn efficiently and grow to their full potential.

A crossing guard holds a stop sign and two students are crossing the street.

9. Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month 2021 To kick off Latinx Heritage Month, ACLU of Maryland staff members shared what makes them proud of their Latinx heritage. Latinidad is not a monolith, and we must continue to celebrate the culture and the community in its uniqueness long after the month ends.

Latinx Heritage Month 2021. The background is purple, pink, and light green. There is a red triangle in the middle and wavy lines behind it.

10. Abortion Rights Are On The Line: New Supreme Court Session Begins As the landmark case Roe v. Wade continues to be threatened with legal challenges, we must carry on our determined advocacy to protect reproductive rights and freedoms. Abortion is essential health care, and people should always have the right to choose.

Ellen Hutton, Lorena Diaz, Sergio España, and Amy Cruice are at a rally in Annapolis for abortion rights. They hold protest signs and are standing together looking at the camera.

11. Spooky! What Civil Rights Violations Scare Us Most This Halloween Season Real-life horrors can be much more frightening than fictional ones. Here, ACLU of Maryland staff members share what civil rights violations scare them the most and which ones are under threat from real evils in our society.

Spooky blog image of Jay Jimenez and his quote, "What scares me most are cops."

12. Veto Overrides Now: Time To Finally Enact Parole Reform And Protect Immigrants Finally, what makes this blog so important is that our goal was accomplished! The Governor’s vetoes were overridden in December of 2021 and Maryland is a better place because of it. After nearly a decade of work, victories like these bring us one step closer to realizing the promise of justice and freedom for all Marylanders.

Parole reform veto override vote tally. Text says "Veto override victory! Maryland finally takes politics out of parole."