Earlier this month as I was driving in D.C., a van traveling in the opposite direction grabbed my attention. Music was streaming out the windows and, as I got closer, I saw that the windows were decorated with the words “Just Got Proud.”  Thankfully, we both had to stop at an intersection because it stopped me in my tracks. I knew that June is Pride Month, but the phrasing made a lasting impression. There were about a dozen joyous people aboard, and I wanted to know their full story. I was eager to meet the person(s) who I assumed just came out as LGBTQ+. They were doing so amid a furious backlash from the right that is not only a cultural statement but also features a wave of dangerous legislation in many states seeking to erode hard-fought rights. When I learn of new attempts to turn back the clock on LGBTQ+ rights, seemingly every day, I think of the courage of those riding in the “Just Got Proud” van. Allies need to match the anti-LGBTQ+ forces with equal conviction, and we applaud the fire required to uphold these liberties for all.

In this edition of Spark, we commemorate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and we not-so-humble brag about our team’s devotion and cross-cutting contributions to launch a new National Heritage Area and reveal hidden history in Maryland. Also, Hatcher’s digital team tackles AI and discusses our approach to blending artificial and human intelligence to serve clients and our community. In addition, we celebrate Great Outdoors Month, while cautioning that all communities should experience its benefits and have equal access. Finally, our education team shares a deep appreciation for the learning and relationship building at the recent Education Writers Association (EWA) conference.

We hope the summer months bring you a healthy balance of professional and personal joy, space to pursue your passions, and enduring pride.