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Fashion Lab @ the Burrito Juke Joint

June 27, 2011

The Fashion Lab 

Style Curators Fari Nzinga & Gia Hamilton Feature Harriet’s by Hekima 

Come Get Dressed With Us — At the Burrito Juke Joint!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gris Gris Lab is thrilled to announce the kick-off of our newest event series, The Fashion Lab, with a special event featuring DJ Soul Sister at the legendary Burrito Juke Joint on Friday, July 1.  Gris Gris Lab, DJ Soul Sister and The Burrito Magicians have collaborated to bring to you an evening of MUSIC, FASHION and FOOD... Drink specials, Good eats, Cool People, Dancing and all around good times...Come play dress-up with Gris Gris Lab’s Fashion Lab at the Burrito Juke Joint, featuring a special “Happiest Hour” set by DJ Soul Sister.  Join New Orleans-based fashionistas: the Off the Grid Socialite herself -- Gia M. Hamilton, and BlackPowerFlower, Fari Nzinga, for a boutique fashion experience as you prepare for Essence Fest. The Fashion Lab offers exclusive designer apparel and accessories for men and women.  Don’t see what you’re looking for? Book a private appointment at the Gris Gris Lab, or schedule a fashion party for you and your friends.

The Burrito Juke Joint happens at 915 N. Dupre Street in New Orleans from 6pm until midnight.

The Fashion Lab runs from 8-10pm, and DJ Soul Sister’s “Happiest Hour” set from 8pm until midnight.

Forage Fest 2011 at Gris Gris Lab with Food Justice student Lena Tenenbaum

May 9, 2011



Urban Foraging

By Lena Tenenbaum- former Gris Gris Lab farmer/ forager in residence

   “I’m going to have to call you back….” There are some things I just can’t explain to family over the phone, like why I’d just climbed up an orange tree mid-conversation. Or even stranger, why I’m suddenly bleeding from my arm and pinned to a fence by the seat of my pants, yet still clutching a shirtful of oranges and shouldering my cell phone. It’s a real conversation killer, let me tell you. But the thing is, foraging has become pure habit for me. My eyes automatically scan every tree for edibles and I’m just like a child–my fingers gravitate toward fruit faster than mother conscience can say no. So this is how I lead my glamorous life as an urban forager, very very stuck. On a fence. In broad daylight. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

            We live in a land of free food–juicy, flavorful and unlike anything I’ve ever picked from pyramid displays on supermarket shelves. Did you know that within a square mile of the Gris Gris Lab one can find mulberries, Japanese plums, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, kumquats, blood oranges, figs, rosemary, mint, lemon balm, wild lettuces, clover, dandelions, and pecans? New Orleans has this reputation for being a food desert, but that sounds like an oasis to me.

            I came down here in January and I’ve enjoyed getting to know this city through its food. I started walking everywhere and began snacking along the way. At first I timidly picked kumquats from trees planted in sidewalks, but I quickly grew bold and started hopping fences and climbing to the topmost branches. It’s a hobby that has led to many meaningful conversations. When people see me taking fruit, they usually say something along the lines of, “Oranges, huh??” I’ll offer them some fruit and it usually leads to two strangers sharing a moment and a snack.

            I’ve met people who reminisce. “When I was a kid, these trees used to be everywhere. And mimosas, too. Oh, how we loved them. Used to can marmalades with my grandma.”

            I’ve met people who rant. “When that **** blight hit the citrus, the **** city made us cut down our tree. And now my ***** neighbor won’t let me plant any **** trees because they don’t want fruit falling on the **** cars. ”

            I’ve met people who have known hatred. “When I was a little girl, my friend and I used to go to City Park to pick blackberries. It was whites only back then. But we went anyway. I remember one time having to run and hide out in a shop to escape a mob of white men who chased us out of the park.”

            I’ve met people who teach. “Did you know that 90% of satsumas are grown in Placherman’s Parish right on the levee?”

            I’ve met people who own the trees. “This was a seedling when I bought the house fifteen years ago. Please, take as much as you can and tell your friends to come, too.”

            I’ve found a lot more than just food in my foraging. By finding my food at its source, I have found community. I have found stories. I have found New Orleans.

Cultural “Apps” project Fari’s Fabulous Finds presents…

March 4, 2011

Gris Gris Lab’s Cultural “Apps” Project with writer/ethnographer Fari Nzinga

Fari’s Fabulous Finds

March Edition

 A collection of commentary, insights & interviews

by Fari Nzinga

There is a lot to be learned from the experiences of people who productively occupy urban spaces that are over-policed and under-funded.  Mrs. Jeanette Bell, and Mrs. Pam Broom are two such women.  Born and raised on a farm in Hazelhurst, MS, Mrs. Bell is a master gardner living and working right here in Central City.  Mrs. Broom has also chosen to center her work in Central City because that’s where she grew up.  Both of these women are long-time veterans of what have been newly termed the sustainable or urban agriculture movements.
    On a sunny monday morning, as the mist rose from the petals and leaves of her edible flowers, I sat with Mrs. Bell in her garden the Fleur D’Eden. Lamenting the deaths of her beautiful buds in last years’ winter freeze, Mrs. Bell busily swept and pruned, preparing for the Fleur D’Eden’s triumphant return.  Before Katrina, this place was bursting with colors, flowers, and fragrances, but with all the flooding after the 2005 levy failures Mrs. Bell’s garden has really suffered; there is no longer a market for her organic bouquets and arrangements. Instead she says “folks go to WholeFoods and buy long-stem roses and long-stem sunflowers, you’d think that people only have one tall vase at home!” So Mrs. Bell is changing her game plan, she’s growing parsley, and sage, and thyme and rosemary. She’s also growing begonias and violas, both gorgeous and edible flowering perennials.  Mrs. Bell sells her edible bouquets at local farmers markets and through word of mouth; she says it’s just one of many innovative strategies that urban Black people have deployed to feed their families or as a side hustle for extra income.
    And that’s just how Mrs. Broom got into urban farming she tells me, “because 9 times out of 10 you have to have a day job.”  Mrs. Broom is the founder of WandA, the Women and Agriculture Network; over the past 20 years she has gradually built up her capacity so that she can devote more and more of her time to doing the work she loves and feels called to do. Under WandA’s auspices Mrs. Broom operates the Sun Harvest garden, she offers agricultural consulting, technical assistance, social enterprise development and training to individuals and groups looking to grow gardens using sustainable practices — i.e. no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Her first major WandA consulting project is a garden in the 9th Ward called Growing Desire. In June of 2010 Mrs. Broom was brought in to convert a vacant lot that was owned by the Desire Street Ministries into a vegetable garden. For almost a year, with the help of the young Black men of Ministries’ Boys Academy, they having been working to cultivate the soils so that seeds can grow. This Spring they are looking forward to planting.
    Mrs. Bell says “this is a country that relies too heavily on one state for its food supply — way too heavy.” Because of our over-dependence on California produce, Mrs. Bell recommends that “people need to start growing their own food because there is gonna come a time when the healthy stuff you’re just no gonna be able to afford.” While Mrs. Bell acknowledges that her vision of establishing an urban farm in the lower 9 may be a “pipe dream”, for now she hopes to work together with Gia and the students of the Gris Gris Lab’s Food Justice course to contribute fresh produce to their farmshare program. The farmshare’s mission is to build a food production network within and supported by local communities. While it is important to create a diversity of participation in food justice initiatives, the aim is to build community amongst the Food Justice participants and then to engage with Black residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to learn from and support traditional growing practices and foodways. The program will offer a box of fresh produce every week from sustainable gardens like Mrs. Bell’s Fleur D’Eden or Mrs. Broom’s Sun Harvest.  
    What is so great about the Gris Gris Lab farmshare is that is operates on the premise of abundance and seeks to share and redistribute that abundance. Master gardeners Mrs. Jeanette Bell and Mrs. Pam Broom are living examples of how to work from this framework. Although Central City and the 9th Ward tend to be known more for what they’re lacking lacking than anything else (high-achieving schools, grocery stores, safety & security), Sun Harvest and Fleur D’Eden prove that time, energy, and ingenuity are all that is necessary to begin to address community concerns. Mrs. Broom shared a story with me that illustrates this point. She says,

I had promised one of the young men that i’d bring him some greens from my Sun Harvest garden. And i was watching him just work that tiller. And i said to him ‘ok i’m gonna give you these greens but you have to report back to the group about how they came out. And one of the other guys said, ‘oh you don’t have to worry cuz he’s the chef of the project!’ Everybody in the project loves when he cooks. I just thought that was fabulous… It’s amazing. You look at these guys that you call ‘at-risk’ or you know, whatever the label is, and you have them in a situation like that. And you see that there’s so much more.
It’s one thing to learn from visionaries who with only a few dollars can turn a vacant lot into a beautifully sustainable and productive enterprise. It’s quite another to watch as they quietly encourage and empower their neighbors to do the same, thereby turning an individual act into a movement-building one.  Now that’s a Fab Find.

For more information about Pam’s work visit

Pam Broom

WANDA( Women and Agriculture Network)

There’s a Fungus Among Us…. Mushroom Growing with the Fungus Underground

February 25, 2011



Its what every Off the Grid Socialite dreams of….Monday morning outdoor class with fungi…well not quite, MYCELIUM to be exact.  According to the Fungus Underground ( and I don’t mean the growth in your basement or your ingrown toenail gunk) a grassroots collective of mushroom enthusiasts, claim that mushrooms have existed for over 420 million years and during this time founded an incredibly expansive and sustainable eco system.  And I quote, one might equate them to a humble janitor cleaning up after the big party that is life on our planet.  Mycelium, as an intricate web, are located on the floor of the forest and measure about one cell wall thick.  And yet like our own web 3.0 super system, the primordia (hubs in the mycelial web), hyphae ( sprout like arms) and spores ( carrier of genetic material) crowd source and use a kind of nature based viral marketing strategy to create a “clamp connection” between opposite genetic hphae which means in layman’s terms that Mycelium or the base of mushrooms can sign on to their “internet” or world wide web and visit servers, exchange  information, upload and dowload all relevant materials neccessary for sustaining life as quickly as we can google it.  Its all really quite fascinating that such an ecosystem exists right under our noses, in our own backyards if you will.  It almost implies, no.. wait.., urges us to study micro habitats as a blueprint for creating sustainable healthy plans for our larger environment including urban areas.

So by 11am all this talk of mycelium has made me hungry, for mushrooms that is, because you see, like a fruit tree, mycelium ( fungi) functions are analogous to fruiting plants and its result- MUSHROOMS.  And well not only do my 3 sons laugh at how mushrooms make it in to almost any and every dish I make, but upon learning how easy it is to propogate them, I became increasingly excited about near future possibilities.  As I sat writing this commentary on what Off the Grid SOCIALITES spend time doing, I realized that I was asked a very important question by a man named MUD Baron, School Gardens and Urban Agriculture Development Czar,  who visited Gris Gris Lab and that is, ” What is a plant or living organism’s main purpose on the planet?” and after chuckling to myself, using my own African sensibility and cellular memory, I answered, ” to survive and reproduce”   And so if this complex web can survive and reproduce for over 420 million years, thats more than enough time to be considered a credible and worthy subject in my book. 

Noah and Boi, our gracious and knowledgable teachers of mushroom growing went over the steps of mushroom imprinting, materials needed ( not much more than dowels, straw, plastic bags or containers like mason jars, wood sources like wood chips and perhaps some kind of simple grain) and the actual technique to share the specific mushroom imprint on a piece of salvaged moist cardboard and the patience it takes for life to reproduce.   And with this knowledge, I realized that mushroom growing could very well be a space efficient and inexpensive  part of my apothecary at The Lab  I imagined creating special reishi and shitake tinctures and vinegars that are incorporated into one of my many receipes for my “Food as Medicine Lifestyle”. 

All this in less than 2 hours on a Monday morning … and afterwards I was left to my own devices, some of which involved chatting with Pam Broom ( Women and Agriculture Network) and  MUD about his days as a migrant farm worker and jotting down ideas for Gris Gris Lab’s greatest medicinal cocktails…. which you will have to stop by and taste for yourself. 

Cool Facts about Mushrooms according to :

~ The mycelium web is capable of efficiently decomposing dead organic matter, transferring nutrients and moisture from one plant to another and killing overpoulated or damaged plants to make way for new life.

~ Mushrooms are low in calories, have no cholesterol and are virtually free of fat and sodium

~Mushrooms also contain other essential minerals like Selenium, which works with Vitamin E to produce antioxidants that neutralize “free radicals” which can cause cell damage.

~Wild mushrooms can range in price for reasons such as taste, historical significance and availability. European truffles can sell for over $1,600 per pound


The Gris Gris Lab version of the SHROOMTINI

2 oz mushroom infused vodka
2 oz fresh lemon
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz vanilla liqueur 

 1 dropper of reishi mushroom tincture

*to infuse vodka with mushrooms add 3 sliced portabella mushrooms to 750 ml bottle vodka allow to infuse for 1 month.
*simple syrup is fifty percent water fifty percent sugar mixture, add your own social magic- wink, wink!

 And as I like to remind people of my quote for the year, ” The universe has got my back!”


Love and Light from the Off the Grid SOCIALITE- Gia ” Skywalker” Hamilton

Black Urbanism as explained by Sara Zwede

February 21, 2011


About Sara Zwede- Black Urbanist    

Sara Zewde grew up in Slidell, Louisiana. As a woman with Ethiopian roots, she has long had a keen interest in the cultural spatial production of Afro-diasporic peoples and its potential to inform design and planning. This research question has led her to study and work in Brazil, South Africa, and New Zealand, among other places, and inspired her to write her masters thesis at MIT on Black Urbanism as a design strategy on North Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. Sara currently lives in New Orleans where she is involved in urban planning and development, drawing largely from the Black Urbanist framework. In her free time, she enjoys practicing Brazilian Portuguese and samba, rooting for the New Orleans Saints, and has recently taken up painting




Throughout the evolution of our understanding of ‘sustainability’, it is important that various cultures be articulated and included in the discourse. Due to the lack of literature on many marginalized communities and histories of sustainable practices, their potential to inform contemporary issues are largely absent from curricula and practice. In this way, investigating the spatial practices of various cultures has the potential to inspire new aesthetics, approaches to sustainable design, and foster inclusivity and social justice in the urban landscape.

These issues are to be taken up by Plurale Tantum, a joint project by five recent graduates of MIT and Harvard’s graduate programs in city planning. The project is taking the initial form of a blog, hosting a virtual space for ideas on urbanism and how it is conditioned – and conditioned by – the multiplicity of social identities that inhabit it and the potential of this discourse to inform planning and design. Plurale Tantum’s literal translation from Latin is “plural only.” In English, the phrase refers to nouns that only have a plural form (i.e., “clothes” or “glasses”). The phrase communicates a belief that urbanism does not have a singular narrative and should be articulated through various perspectives. Among the issues we have begun to explore are Black Urbanism, Queer Space, the spatiality of nationless borders, and beyond. From this we intend to elaborate new epistemologies and methodologies for design and planning practice, which we believe can contribute to making this urban century work for the betterment of all.

You are invited to attend the Plurale Tantum kick-off party on Friday, March 18, 2011 at the Art Voices Art Gallery at 1901 Royal Street from 6-9 PM. The lovely Gia Hamilton of Gris Gris Lab is co-coordinating the event, and we want you to contribute to the dialogue.

International Women Healthcare Providers Meet & Greet

February 7, 2011

  Organizer Taslim van Hattum

  Organized by Taslim Van Hattum (center)

In October 2009, just a few short weeks after Gris Gris Lab opened its doors for the  first time; female heathcare providers from India,Pakistan and Afghanistan were greeted by female heathcare providers of color in New Orleans to welcome them to the city, share success stories, and collectively discuss health issues that effect women globally.  This meet and greet helped establish The Lab as a safe healing space in central City New Orleans and thus began our Alternative Healthcare Program featuring massage, reiki, acupuncture and ritual work.

Sustainable New Orleans Meet and Greet

February 6, 2011

Sustainable New Orleans Meet and Greet allows local thought leaders to gather in an informal setting and discuss our work, current projects and possible collaborations.  Join the dialog and meet the “Off the Grid Socialite” and owner of Gris Gris Lab, Gia M. Hamilton



Thursday February 10th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at Eifel Society located at 2040 St. Charles Ave. 

Saturday February 12th from 9:45am to 12:00pm at Sankofa Market at 5500 St. Claude Ave.  Raw Food Preparation- Living Food Nori Rolls

Saturday February 12th from 3:30pm to 4:00pm on WBOK E-talk Co Hosts, Gia Hamilton  presents Sustainable New Orleans Radio Segment

Call in (504.260.9265)

Sustainable New Orleans ( SNO) is a collaboration of social entrepreurs, advocates, organizers, urban planners and engaged community members that create a space for dialog about how to crate a socially just and sustainable future for underserved communities and share resources and information with the community at large.

Every Saturday from 3:30pm to 4:00pm Central Standard Time, join hosts  Gia Hamilton of Gris Gris Lab and Tilman Hardy of CORE USA for a community based dialog about  how to create a sustainable New Orleans for ALL of its residents on WBOK’s E-Talk 1230am radio station.  Call in on Saturdays at 3:30pm (504.260.9265)