Katherine Bush Felton First Lady of Wiley College
We were thrilled when Katherine Bush Felton agreed to share how she was inspired by Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations by Nicole A. Taylor, a Juneteenth cookbook published by Simon & Schuster.
She hosted an elegant outdoor afternoon tea party where her love for entertaining, baking, and creating flower arrangements shines through.
Katherine served in many public affairs roles at government agencies, including the White House during the Obama Administration, the United States Congress, and the Seattle Mayor’s Office. Katherine now serves as the First Lady of Wiley College, a historically Black college in Marshall, Texas. Hear more about her experiences with Juneteenth and the importance of learning about your culture and passing that on to younger generations.
Katherine and her husband Herman live in the historic President’s Home on the Wiley College campus. They have three children—Jamal, Paige, and Trey, plus an adorable Portuguese Water Dog named Thurgood. Katherine loves to spend time with her family in their New Orleans home to enjoy the arts, culture, architecture, and culinary offerings of the city.
Katherine’s son Trey in Galveston, Texas celebrating Juneteenth
How do you celebrate Juneteenth?
I have celebrated Juneteenth in many ways over the years. In Seattle, where I grew up, Juneteenth was celebrated with community festivals. My favorite was the Juneteenth festival at my neighborhood community center. There was amazing food, entertainment, crafters, artists, and entrepreneurs. It was a celebration of our resiliency, our strength, and our resolve to support each other economically and otherwise.
My favorite Juneteenth memory is more recent; during the pandemic, without communal gatherings being available, my husband I and I decided to take a road trip to Galveston, Texas to provide Trey, our eight-year-old at the time an in-person Juneteenth history lesson, complete with a stop at a local ice cream shop.
Katherine hosts Juneteenth-inspired afternoon tea.
What do you love about celebrating Juneteenth?
Now that I live in Texas, and on the campus of a historically Black college, Juneteenth is particularly special. Founded in 1873, just a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation, and eight years after the federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to effectively end slavery in the United States, I can imagine recently enslaved students pouring into Wiley College’s campus eager to receive the education just recently made available to them with the ending of slavery. Wiley College is special place, with sacred grounds that played an integral role in Texas in educating recently freed slaves and history makers throughout history.
Opal Lee, born in Marshall, Texas, and Wiley College alum is revered as the “grandmother of Juneteenth” due to activism over the years to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. In 2021, the Wiley family beamed with pride as Opal Lee stood with President Joe Biden as he signed the law making Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. I am proud to walk the on the same grounds of Wiley College alum like Opal Lee, James Farmer Jr, and others who have shaped the Black experience in this country.
Natasha and Victor Long with two of their children – Crow-Hop Farms at Longview Farmers Market in Texas
Favorite Black-owned food brands or restaurants in Texas?
During the pandemic, my husband and I discovered the most adorable country fruit stand on Highway 80 in Hallsville, Texas called Crow-Hop Farms. Back then, Natasha and Victor Long just recently inherited the land from his aunt. Soon after, Victor was laid off of his job so they decided to begin farming the land and haven’t turned back since. Victor and Natasha gleaned their skills from Victor’s father, Cleveland Long, an award-winning farmer who has spent most of his 87 years farming in Jacksonville, Texas. Using natural methods, Crow-Hop Farms grows a variety of fruits and vegetables like okra, green peas, squash, cucumbers, garlic, ginger, onion, and the best-seeded watermelon I have ever tasted.
Kaylah’s Teacakes from Watermelon & Red Birds Cookbook
What’s your favorite recipe from Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations by Nicole A. Taylor, and why?
When scrolling through Watermelon on Red Birds, I was immediately drawn to Kaylah’s Teacakes because teacakes are my absolute favorite, and I was still in search of my go-to recipe. Teacakes are simple but have a bold, subtle flavor profile that fosters a feeling of understated elegance. The simple list of ingredients and cooking method had me intrigued, after all, in my opinion, the best desserts are often the simplest. Thanks to Nicole and Kaylah my search is over—these are the best teacakes I have had.
Let us know how Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations & Nicole A. Taylor recipes inspire you. We hope you got some great inspiration from Katherine on always being a student of Black history and culture and passing it on to others.
About Katherine Bush Felton
Katherine Bush Felton loves entertaining, baking, creating flower arrangements, and architecture. She is an evangelist for wellness and is a forever student of Black history and culture. In her spare time, Katherine loves hosting afternoon tea for her girlfriends and visiting antique shops to find vintage teacups and tableware.
Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Katherine was heavily influenced by her maternal grandmother, who migrated from Wallace, Louisiana, a small farming town just west of New Orleans, to Seattle during the Great Migration to take advantage of wartime economic opportunities. Katherine’s most joyous summer memories were spent with her brothers and cousins in her grandparent’s expansive South Seattle garden.
Katherine studied sociology and African Studies at the University of Washington, where she also earned her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis on urban affairs. Katherine also serves as the First Lady of Wiley College, a historically Black college in Marshall, Texas. Before moving to Texas, Katherine served in various public affairs roles at government agencies, including the White House during the Obama Administration, the United States Congress, and the Seattle Mayor’s Office.
Katherine and her husband Herman live in the historic President’s Home on the Wiley College campus. They have three children—Jamal, Paige, and Trey, plus an adorable Portuguese Water Dog named Thurgood. Katherine loves to spend time with her family in their New Orleans home to enjoy the arts, culture, architecture, and culinary offerings of the city.6