We started Sneak of the Week a while back to highlight some of the awesome shoe sock combos that come through the shop from time to time. Let me tell you there are a lot of them and they're all so good. But, when I was showing off our recent sock - the New Kicks / Sweet Kicks - to Prince Racster he pulled out his phone and said "You need to check out these sneakers that I just got for Akasha." Those sneakers are the Puma RS-X Toys that you see here and he was right. So, we got them both in the studio to highlight the new socks, their fresh sneakers, and basically anything else that they're into at the moment.
Plus, as you can see from the photos below, Akasha and Prince have the best style around, so getting them to come in and talk about it is always a treat.
Akasha Lawrence-Spence. Welcome! We're going to get right to it because I know you have a lot going on. What made you choose this sneaker?
So, actually, I didn’t choose this sneaker at all. My partner Prince chose it for me. Every year I get a pair of red sneakers, I just like red sneakers. I’m not really a sneaker person per se, but if I’m going to wear something they’ve got to be a statement or something that gives an outfit pop.
But every year it’s red?
Every year. Just red. I wear a lot of neutrals, and when you put on a red shoe it’s like a red lip. Boom, it just pops.
What was your red shoe last year?
Air Max 90’s I think.
I like that. What’s your all-time favorite?
So, I always liked the Concrete Jordan 3’s. I was never a sneaker person, when I got my first pair of sneakers I was 24. But I always liked the look of that one on people’s feet.
Ok, that works. Now, what is something exciting that you’ve got your eye on? Or that you're working on?
I think we’re all political, and we should be, it’s elemental to how our society runs. I’m working on some initiatives right now through my business - Fifth Element - one of which is Municipal Broadband PDX - we're trying to bring broadband as a public utility to Portland. The government would own it and it would have the opportunity to be subsidized such that low-income households that don’t have internet will be able to have it.
It would also help close the homework gap for low income and minority students who are currently falling behind more affluent and Caucasian students. One of the main goals is also to provide faster, more reliable internet for everyone, especially businesses — gigabyte speeds — that Comcast and Century Link aren’t giving us at all currently.
Over 200 cities in the US have done it already, on a smaller scale. But, they’re much smaller cities. If we were to do it here in Portland, we would be the biggest city to do it right now.
Another thing that I’m working on right now is that I recently drafted some action items for is "fight for our schools" essentially it is a funding for our schools campaign. Portland Public Schools are drastically underfunded and large corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes. So, putting pressure on Oregon State Legislature to put pressure on these corporations is important. They should be paying into this system. Their kids go to school here!
It shouldn’t be that some schools have great facilities and high graduation rates, where on the other hand you have schools in North Portland that barely have computers.
It is crazy. And people should be involved. We have to hold our government accountable. My job in these campaigns is to help gain visibility and traction so that people start to care about these things. We need to put pressure on our legislature to do the right thing.
Is that what you were doing today? I know you mentioned you had some meetings.
Yeah, today was with Municipal Broadband PDX.
How did you become involved with that?
I have a women of color organization called Melanated. One of our events in November right before the election was a “What’s on the ballot?” event. Where we invited Portland People’s Coalition and Defend Oregon to come in and disseminate that information. Explain it.
All of those measures are written with jargon and rhetoric that is meant to confuse you. “Not doing this will maybe x - y - and z this other thing.”
So, through Melanated I got in touch with PPC and I told one of their organizers, Julia DeGraw, that there are a lot of things going on that grind my gears, like the repeal of Net Neutrality and she was the one that pointed me towards Municipal Broadband PDX. I got involved with them and realized that after their initial push, when they launched, people forgot about them, as is the case with many campaigns of this style.
I would think too, with a lot of those things, if you don’t have happening moments, it’s tough for people to continue the conversation.
Right. But the problem is that most of the people that are involved in these coalitions have full-time jobs outside of their work there. And most of these initiatives don’t have money to pay social media strategists or marketing groups to do the work towards keeping those conversations going at all times.
Then, you're helping spread the word for them.
Exactly and so, my company is focused on real estate development, but I don’t see how we can have conscientious real estate development happening without investing in public goods — education, public utilities — things like that, so it’s like these things go hand in hand; for some people it’s obscure as to how it fits together, but, to me it’s clear — helping them helps me towards my goal as well.
Ok, so we know what you’re working on. Which is a lot What have you been doing, aside from this? Anything fun we should know about?
I’ll tell you something silly that Prince and I have done recently. We posted a thing called “the Third Floor Playlist,” we’re asking everyone who lives on the third floor to write down a song. So that we have a floor playlist.
And we put it in the main area of the building and now everyone else in the building is responding with things like “hey, where’s the 5th-floor one!” “What is this about? How does this work?”
That's amazing. How are they voicing their concerns?
They’re just writing it on the paper there on the wall. And other people are responding to them! It’s become this fun way to interact with the people who live around you.
We’re definitely going to need to include that.
Ok, Prince Racster, you're up. We've been riding bikes and playing basketball and looking at clothes and of course sneakers. What made you choose this current sneaker that you brought in today for Sweet Kicks photo shoot?
I like the Nike Air Tech Challenge Agassi’s because I can play basketball in them and they’re a tennis shoe. They look good with everything. High cuffs. Sweats. Shorts. Chino. Jeans. Anything you want to wear. They just look good. And they have a lot of different colors.
And that tennis ball. So, what is your all-time favorite sneaker?
This is a question that I had to think about for hours. It’s definitely a 'Posite. I would say Nike Foamposite, but I played ball in them and they’re a little heavy. So, it would be those Flightposite 3’s - the Garnett’s I was talking about earlier - with the honeycomb - I really like those. I like those and the Flightposite 1’s with the zipper.
It’s funny though.. they were so good. But, my feet were so fat when I was younger that I couldn’t zip them up. So, I had to leave them open and tie them — and everyone else had them zipped up. But, when they saw mine they were like “oh, that's how we do it.” So, then everyone started taking down their zippers.
And I just always thought that when it comes to sneakers that if it doesn’t have like a suede old school feel, then it should look like some future-shit, like Tron or something. And a lot of people don’t like those shoes and I always thought that was crazy. How can you not like those shoes, they look like a moon boot. Like you’re walking on the moon.
That’s exactly why I like the Jordan 1. Because it’s a basic silhouette.
Jordan 1’s are nice too, but that couldn’t be my favorite shoe. It’s too simple. Plus, they don’t look good with sweatpants.
Something exciting in sports art or culture that you’ve got your eye on?
Women’s athletics. I’m excited about the push towards women’s athletics. Women’s basketball is giving a whole new flavor to basketball. We like it, we know the intricacies, but I think women’s basketball is bringing a whole new element. I’m waiting for women’s basketball sneakers, you know. Just for them to get their hands on materials to go crazy with. Half of the population hasn’t gotten the chance to get into this world.
For example the Serena Willams ones, those were so cool.
My final question was what do you have going on, or what’s going on that you’re into these days?
I’m thinking about a cycling club for me and my friends. Something that’s not all about the regular bike shit. Just cool, fun, friend shit. Trying to figure out a way to put things together so that people can represent themselves within their cycle club, posse, or crew.
I want to get people to be in my posse. I just don’t want people to be all serious. I don’t want to be one of these serious people. I’m trying to figure that out.
Ok, one final one. What was your contribution to the Third Floor Playlist?
Hah ha. I put that song from the Insecure soundtrack. “Stuck on Central.”
Akasha - I put “expensive shit” by Fela Kuti.