Pots & pans: We need to celebrate our heroes and heroines both past and present this Juneteenth No matter the when, they are all making it possible for blacks to realize the true American dream

On this date in 1865, black people enslaved in Galveston, Texas, were told the Union forces had won the Civil War and that they were free. Since then, black Americans have marked Juneteenth with jubilation, feasts, strawberry soda and other red drinks.

Today, I raise my glass of strawberry soda to salute some of the people I believe exemplify the continuing struggle to gain full civil and human rights for black people in our country, a struggle that has helped America draw closer to the vision outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

Consequently, I toast LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Since 2010, James has gone from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat and back again, winning three NBA championships along the way. This season, K.D. moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors and led that team to a 4-1 victory in the NBA Finals over LeBron’s Cavs, the defending champs. Furthermore, they triumphed by competing against each other vigorously while respecting each other as athletes and as men.

Although some deride and dismiss the significance of millionaire black athletes deciding their fates, their actions represent a generation of black athletes who feel free to pursue happiness and league championships on their own terms.

I toast broadcast journalist April Ryan and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris from California, wonder women who seek to lasso the truth with their probing questions. They have asked questions that revealed inconvenient truths about the white male political establishment that has sought, without success, to dismiss them and shut them up.

Meanwhile, I toast Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chadwick Boseman. The two Howard University men continue the integration of the nation and the world’s fantasy life. Coates, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner, has been writing the comic book Black Panther, about a genius inventor and one of the world’s smartest people. Boseman, who has captured the physicality and emotional complications of James Brown and Jackie Robinson on screen, will continue playing the Black Panther in an eponymous 2018 movie.

As Coates and Boseman champion black inclusion in society through a superhero, Lynn Nottage uses ordinary people to help America better understand today’s challenges, which are made worse by racial and class divisions.

She earns a strawberry soda salute with her bittersweet Sweat, her Pulitzer Prize-winning play that explores the end of work and the emotional chaos that follows. Colson Whitehead, a Pulitzer Prize winner for The Underground Railroad gives us a poetic vision of slavery and its aftermath. And Tracy K. Smith, another Pulitzer Prize winner (Life on Mars), and the new poet laureate of the United States, finds majesty in the everyday, just as Gwendolyn Brooks and Rita Dove did before her.

They meld the intellectual ambition of W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington’s veneration for sweat and craft. They show that the road to higher ground is paved with a commitment to excellence. They show that great art is fundamental to our survival. I toast them all.

And I toast all the black people, especially the slaves, lost to the years. They bore the lash. They prayed. They loved.

And they live in today’s triumphs, undefeated and unbowed, now and forever.

Daily Dose: 6/14/17 Gunman who shot a congressman at baseball practice killed

What a day. The president spoke to the nation, and it was probably the best public speaking appearance of his life.

Every year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle get together to have fun. It comes in the form of America’s onetime pastime: baseball. It’s a great tradition that fosters a good environment and allows the people we elect to show off a little of who they are outside of the Capitol. All their staffers attend when the game happens, and it’s a good time and solid baseball. That’s because they practice. On Wednesday, someone broke the sanctity of that space and opened fire, wounding five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. His name is James T. Hodgkinson, and he was killed in a gunfight with Capitol Police.

Poetry is magical. Linguistic entertainment in the purest way isn’t easy to do. As someone who writes words for a living, often the hardest part is not writing too much. Paring that down to something meaningful is the reason that we have, well, poets. The best ones are recognized every year by the Library of Congress, and the Poet Laureate award basically makes you the best poet on earth. This year, Tracy K. Smith, a black woman, won it. If you’re not familiar with her work, get right. She is tremendous.

Sen. Kamala Harris showed out again Tuesday, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifying in open session during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. He answered her questions seemingly as best as he could but clearly was not ready for any level of intense scrutiny. She was dogged, fair and straightforward, but Sessions was completely flummoxed and said as much. He also interrupted her, which was only to be expected, on some level. But Sessions did himself no favors in helping his own case about any potential ties to Russia.

Once again, we learn that LaVar Ball is about his money. When it comes to pushing everything about his Big Baller Brand, dude pulls no punches when it comes to publicity. Now he’s moved into a different realm, and it seems like kind of a weird bit. He’s got a deal to sell, for $60, trading cards that have his autograph and random sayings that he’s concocted. On top of that, he’s pushing them on eBay. Why anyone would want to buy that I have no idea, but, hey, smoke ’em if you got ’em, I guess.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If I’m being honest, I use Uber all the time. As a concept, it’s a service that is invaluable for people whom cabs don’t often stop for on the street. But the company itself has had major issues. The working environment appears to be awful. It’ll be really hard for people to ditch it.

Snack Time: While we’re not huge on media business news, sometimes it’s interesting. And the story around how SiriusXM managed to acquire Pandora is sort of fascinating.

Dessert: Take some time today to appreciate a very important moment in American television history.