The podcast transcript is available below.


Half a decade ago, Dana Vickers Shelley walked into the ACLU of Maryland as the new executive director ready to make "good trouble" in the name of working to guarantee the promise of Maryland’s constitution for all Marylanders. Five years have gone by, but the mission remains the same.

Listen as Dana reflects on her 5th anniversary as executive director and how the ACLU of Maryland remains committed to empowering Marylanders to exercise their rights so that the law values and uplifts their humanity. This episode was adapted from the keynote speech Dana delivered to the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland’s Standing for Justice Conference in May.

Written and read by: Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director at the ACLU of Maryland

Produced by: Nehemiah Bester, communications strategist at the ACLU of Maryland

This podcast was recorded on Piscataway land.


00:06 - 00:15
Dana Vickers Shelley
We exist to empower Marylanders to exercise their rights so the law values and uplifts their humanity, and fulfill the country's unrealized promise of justice and freedom for all.
00:15 - 00:50
Nehemiah Bester
You’re listening to Reading Freely with the ACLU of Maryland, an audio blog feature of our Thinking Freely podcast. Five Years of Making “Good Trouble,” Dana Vickers Shelley celebrates and reflects on her fifth anniversary as Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland. Written and read by Dana Vickers Shelley, and adapted from the Keynote speech Dana delivered to the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland’s Standing for Justice Conference in May 2023.
00:50 - 01:15
Dana Vickers Shelley
In marking my five-year anniversary this summer as executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, I am reflecting on what our team has accomplished and how we are working differently to guarantee that the promise of Maryland's Constitution is accessible to all. Particularly those whose humanity was not considered at its founding.
01:15 - 01:42
Dana Vickers Shelley
As a grown-up Girl Scout and rabble rouser I collaborate with others to advocate for racial equity and justice, and I am dedicated to making what my hero, Congressman John Lewis, called “Good Trouble.” Each and every one of us at the ACLU of Maryland is a person who finds themselves proudly making “Good Trouble.” We are relentless so that we can protect, improve, and support democracy for everyone across the state.
01:42 - 02:11
Dana Vickers Shelley
Our community centered approach builds on decades of our historic expertise and strength in litigation and is making that work even more grounded and impactful than ever. Maryland was an early leader for ACLU affiliates across the country in intentionally centering racial justice in the legal cases we brought. We do this work on behalf of and with individuals, families and communities.
02:12 - 02:58
Dana Vickers Shelley
We are fortunate to be learning from and led by people who have firsthand experience with the failings of Maryland's discriminatory public systems, including voting rights, education, policing and incarceration. Over the past five years, we have refocused the organization's vision and mission. We exist to empower Marylanders to exercise their rights so the law values and uplifts their humanity. Our goal is to realize a Maryland where people are united in affirming and exercising their rights to address inequities and fulfill the country's unrealized promise of justice and freedom for all.
02:58 - 03:31
Dana Vickers Shelley
We are bold in naming racism, both personal and structural, as the foundation of the rights violations we see. Our current work is not a deviation from the past. It is a focusing, an expansion and a deepening of how our legal and policy programs have functioned over many years. We are combining key strategies of litigation, legal advocacy, communications, engagement and mobilization and policy advocacy to fulfill our mission.
03:31 - 04:15
Dana Vickers Shelley
We are naming the racism and oppressive laws and practices that thwart real change, and we back it up with facts. It is the ACLU's role to hold elected officials and policymakers accountable to our values. Sadly, we still have a state in the same shameful tradition of other former Confederate states like Mississippi and Alabama. When it comes to incarcerating Black men with long sentences, and we still have a state where the Fraternal Order of Police is invited to the table to set police accountability policy, while families who were forced to endure police violence are denied entry to those discussions.
04:15 - 04:54
Dana Vickers Shelley
We need to be strategic and visionary to dismantle, crush and chip away at the centuries old laws, practices and systems that keep Black folks, Indigenous Peoples, and People of Color from living our lives fully. How do we know our approach is working? Let me share some examples. This legislative session, the ACLU of Maryland and our partners secured a massive victory with the almost midnight sine die passage of legislation to end police stops and searches based on the alleged smell of marijuana.
04:54 - 05:22
Dana Vickers Shelley
We are defending voting rights in a redistricting case brought by Black voters in Federalsburg on the Eastern Shore. The seven Black women who brought the case to us are determined to end 200 years of white only rule, and we're right there with them in court and beyond. And we feel closer than ever to finally ending the racist federal 287(g) program in Maryland.
05:22 - 05:52
Dana Vickers Shelley
Local police should not be racially profiling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the guise of public safety. All of our work is paying off. Your continued support and partnership are so deeply appreciated and vital for more victories like these. We would not be here without member donors like you. Thank you for helping us to be the change we want to see in Maryland and across our country.
05:52 - 06:01
Nehemiah Bester
This has been an ACLU Maryland audio blog. If you want to learn more, visit Thanks for listening.

Catch Reading Freely bonus content on Thinking Freely, ACLU of Maryland's podcast that informs Marylanders about what's happening politically – from the courts to the streets – so they can get involved and realize a more equitable Maryland for all. 


Apple Podcast | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Listen Notes | RadioPublic | Pandora