“I feel like I want my work to be empowering, but I don’t know if it empowers me per-se. Stories empower me! Stories where I feel seen empower me, and that’s one of the reasons why I try to do the work that I do so I can relay that same feeling [to others]. Because when I think of all the different things I’ve experienced whether it was a film, book, story, people in my life or people that my family and friends have in their lives so much of my power comes from feeling understood and feeling seen.”
“All aboard! W.E. she.lace is leaving the station. Arrival time for this trip is undefined, and please expect delays and extreme detours. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience, BUT we do assure you that you’re in for a fulfilling journey. Enjoy the ride!” Travelling is an experience that can very easily create feelings of anxiety. Think about it… The planning, the preparation, the required punctuality (an issue for some), the mode of transportation. All of these factors can make travelling an exhausting and expensive experience. But, these stresses are all “part and parcel” to the enjoyment that should come from the adventure. After all, can we say we appreciate our destination if we don’t value the journey? We certainly don’t think so…In fact, she.lace will argue that the journey itself, in totality, is perhaps more important. There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from travelling and, of course, we are not just talking about “physically” moving from one place to the next. In order to mentally grow as a person you should always aim to enable your mind to explore. Concept to concept, perspective to perspective, paradigm to paradigm…it should be an endless pursuit of knowledge. And who wants to remain “stationary” while travelling, is that even possible? Yes it is, it’s called mental stagnation and this is the kind of “travel delay” you don’t want to experience. So, what’s the solution? Well, at the risk of being redundant…TRAVEL. You may not know your destination, but who really does? Just know you’re “Travelling to Destiny”, and “Destiny” can be who, what, when, why and where you decide it is. Sometimes in order to feel grounded we have to be in motion…in order to be “found” you have to have been “lost”…in order to find you may have to abandon. It’s amazing how antonyms can sometimes be required to reflect our journey in life.
There’s an expression that she.lace has been hearing increasingly as of late, “beautiful destruction”. What does this mean to you? We’ll venture to suggest that an immediate response may likely stem from word association with the concept of gentrification. With that being said, it’s becoming more common to hear the oxymoronic expression uttered in contexts that don’t relate to the contentious process of urban redevelopment. To she.lace “beautiful destruction” is anything that requires deconstruction in order to construct. Too vague?? Okay, how about a movement that converges art, culture and sneakers to create a platform for women’s empowerment that, simultaneously, calls attention to the lack of equality in sneaker culture… and attempts to BREAK DOWN barriers of exclusion and BUILD a space for women to be recognized and celebrated? Seems like beautiful destruction to us. Now, take into consideration all those individuals who embark on journeys that require them to leave everything they know and relocate. In other words, those who have “deconstructed” a part of their life in order to “construct” elsewhere. Easy? Not in the least. Fun? Depends on your definition of the word. Courageous? Irrefutably, without a doubt. Gratifying? In every way imaginable. Now, we must admit these aren’t jewels of knowledge we’ve picked up during our travels. Nope, our “passports” are moderately decorated compared to this she.lace model. We won’t promise you that while you’re travelling to destiny the trip will be easy or always enjoyable. What we will tell you, by way of Yasmine Mathurin, is that the risk is certainly worth the reward. Introducing the she.lace “global explorer” who beautifully destroys as she travels.
Yasmine: M’pa pi mal.
Explain to she.lace, and everyone else, why that expression or greeting makes sense to you….
Yasmine: I’m Haitian, and I was born in Haiti so when someone says “sak pase” it’s just a nod to the fact the I’m Haitian. And I don’t hear it often, being in Toronto, so every time I hear it’s nice.
It’s funny you mention you don’t hear that often in Toronto…You’re by no means a nomad, but you’re well travelled. Give us an example of a time or place in your life, other than Haiti, where you would’ve heard that more frequently…
Yasmine: Definitely Montreal! I lived there for brief periods in my early childhood, and the areas where my parents chose to raise us, such as Montréal-Nord, where heavily populated by the Haitian community…I also grew up in Calgary and even though most people may not think there’s a lot of black people in Calgary, especially Haitian people, there was actually a pretty sizeable amount of Haitian people. So, when I moved out there that was a pleasant surprise, and that’s what started my eventual community work I became engaged in.
Who is Yasmine, and how has travelling around influenced that person?
Yasmine: Yas, has the inherent belief that she’s a storyteller. And, a lot of the places I either grew up or spend time in have definitely influenced my sensibilities to storytelling. For example, I grew up doing a lot of back-and-forth between Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Montreal. And, a lot of it was due to the political instability in Haiti. And very early on I picked up on the difference between having certain things and not having them, and the difference between looking a certain way and not looking a certain way. Difference was very apparent very early on, and I think that really informed my trajectory in terms of what I wanted to do. Even when I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I’m still figuring it out, storytelling has a had a huge part of it. Being able to observe how people that look like me live and how people who don’t look like me live, and everything in between, it’s been one of the things that really drove my curiosity very early on. That has certainly stuck with and guided where I’ve ended up working. Whether it be human rights activism, or writing, or an executive assistant at a generic office that [curiosity] is still one of the things that serves as my compass. And I still trust in it, to be quite honest.
Sidenote: Allow the she.lace compass to point you in the direction of a captivating story (other than this one) told and produced by this self-described storyteller. Insufficient Funds: A grad’s biggest secret…is that she’s broke. This fantastic documentary is as honest as it is relatable. It chronicles Yasmine’s travels as a young woman with a master’s degree, insurmountable debt and no money to her name. In our opinion, one of the finest pieces of work from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s The Doc Project.
Speaking of your compass, it’s directed you to have a short stint with the United Nations. What was that?
Yasmine: When I finished my undergrad in Political Science in York University I came across an email that a friend sent. It was one of those “here are things you can do with your degree” kind of emails (chuckle) and I was obviously looking for work. So I saw the link to the UN website and, in 2011, they were doing the International Year for People of African decent and they had an open application for people to take part in the first fellowship program. It was being organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). And I applied, but I really didn’t think I would get in to be quite frank. But I applied just because I thought it was worth trying. And also because when I decided that I was going to study political science my goal was specifically, and I remember saying this aloud, that I wanted to work for the UN to be able to kind of – naively back then – change the world. So I thought, ‘you probably won’t get in, but let’s just do it’. That summer my parents wanted us, all of my siblings, to go to Haiti together for the first time in years so I remember being in Haiti when I got the email from somebody at the UN wanting to interview me. And the interview was one question, which was also very jarring (laughs). But I got into the program and it really changed my life to be quite honest. The biggest thing is that I had ideas about human rights and I was very passionate about human rights advocacy specifically for people of African descent, Black people.
Sidenote: Listen to Yasmine explain how her invaluable experience at the UN helped to further deepen her desire to be a storyteller, and provided a lesson in how to effectively tell stories. Oh, and just in case you’re CURIOUS…that one question Yasmine got on her application was: If you get this opportunity what do you plan to do with it?
But with great power comes great responsibility…
So what empowers you?
Yasmine: What empowers me (chuckle), that’s a great question. I feel like I want my work to be empowering, but I don’t know if it empowers me per-se. Stories empower me! Stories where I feel seen empower me, and that’s one of the reasons why I try to do the work that I do so I can relay that same feeling [to others]. Because when I think of all the different things I’ve experienced whether it was a film, book, story, people in my life or people that my family and friends have in their lives, so much of my power comes from feeling understood and feeling seen. Specifically feeling seen is a big one for me.
Which brings us to something that is almost inevitable when it comes to you and being seen, your hair. You have a BEAUTIFUL afro, why do you wear it the way you do?
Yasmine: I’m very intentional about my ‘Fro (laughs). My friends make fun of me because they always tell me that I’m very intense in how much I take care of it. I wear it this way to be visible, to me it’s a part of me but not entirely who I am. I always find it interesting when I straighten my hair and how people don’t recognize me, and a lot my friends have actually walked passed me when my hair has been straight. There’s something really visceral about that every time I do it. Right now, I’m at a place where I’m wrestling between that because a lot of people now recognize me by my ‘fro….and like India.Arie says ‘I’m not my hair’, but I also know it’s a big part of me. And I like to wear my hair big because I feel like how I carry myself allows me to be loud even when I’m being silent. There’s something incredible about being able to visually present a story about you before saying anything, and my ‘fro has the ability to do that. So, I like to be able to do that in spaces that are unfamiliar and allow it to help me navigate.
Which brings us to another subject that you just touched on, owning your space and being identified. So, what is women’s empowerment to you?
Yasmine: For me that’s sisterhood and having a connection. To me, it’s like having a nice secret that you want to tell people about and you’re super-hyped about. It’s having someone who’s safe enough to share something with and being understood without, sometimes, having to say anything.
Where does your love for sneakers come from?
Yasmine: I like sneakers because I like to be comfortable. I’m the type of person that if I’m going out to dance and I can’t wear sneakers I’m most likely not going to go (laughs). Comfort plays a big part in my confidence and I don’t get that from heels. I want to try to get to that place were I’m better at wearing heels, but right now for me sneakers help me feel like I’m in my own skin. They make me feel confident when I have them on.
Why did you model for she.lace?
Yasmine: I like the idea of being able to talk to women about shoes. When I think about sneakers, I think of hip-hop because that’s why I got into them. Thinking back to highschool again, that’s when I really started getting into ol’ school hip hop and hip hop in general. And, that’s 100 percent what informed my love for it. In terms of thinking about she.lace and the idea of talking about women and sneakers, that’s not something that is talked about enough. When you’re talking about sneaker culture so much of the conversation is male-centric, so it’s very exciting to say ‘Hey, there are women like myself and my friends and we’re here.’
Sidenote: Yasmine couldn’t say who her favourite hip hop artist is (too many options), but she did say Common’s track I Used to Love H.E.R. is an all-time classic for her. We tried to have her rap the lyrics in Creole, but she wasn’t having it haha!
The power of stories and storytelling…at this juncture, where is your story going?
Yasmine: For me, I see myself doing bigger and better things. Things that are a lot more aligned with the type of stories that I want to see. And also equipping myself with more tools to be able to tell those stories I want to tell. I’m still learning and I don’t know if you ever get to a place, as a storyteller, were you feel like you are not learning. Right now, I feel like I’m still on my way…Hey, I gave you a nice soundbite!
Yasmine most certainly left us with a cool soundbite. Well, onto the next stop on this journey. Make sure you have your boarding pass and all necessary documentation, this train is getting ready to roll. By now, you should have “trained” yourself to get use to our puns “choo choo!”
Departure Time: 10:00ET Friday September 8, 2017
Depart: Roundhouse Park, Toronto
Arrival: Unknown, TBD
Nope, it’s not Toronto’s famed Union Station… And Yes, those are real trains. Welcome to the Toronto Railway Museum! This might just be the most interactive museum you come across in the city of Toronto. And, that’s quite the statement considering the city is home to the Royal Ontario Museum, Gardiner Museum, Bata Shoe Museum, Aga Khan Museum…shall we continue? BUT, you can’t do this ⬇️ at any of those prestigious world-class museums just mentioned:
Credit: Facebook/ Toronto Railway Museum
That dear friends is the Miniature train which operates on miniature railway tracks that pass through Roundhouse Park. The museum has been entertaining and informing Torontonians about the city’s rich railway history since 2010. According to TRM, “The Toronto Railway Museum is dedicated to preserving the physical legacy, history and experience of rail transportation in Toronto and Ontario.”
Credit: Facebook/ Toronto Railway Museum
These are the type of antique locomotives and train cars that are restored, and on display at the TRM. The cool part is that the restoration is volunteer-based. Visitors don’t have access to the actual restoration area…BUT the process can be viewed from the museum floor. So what might you come across at this railroad crossing? Canadian National Rail 6213 locomotives (CNR 6213), Toronto Hamilton and Buffalo Caboose #70 (TH&B #70), Cape Race passenger cars, railway structures: Cabin D and Don Station, conductor uniforms, railway crossings, engineer simulator and more.
We have the charitable organization Toronto Railway Historical Association to thank for this attraction. However, for railway historians like the TRHA Roundhouse Park’s most noteworthy element is the Canadian Pacific Rail John Street Roundhouse. The CPR John Street Roundhouse is truly an example of “beautiful destruction”. This restoration project has rebuild a piece of Toronto history originally constructed between 1929-1931. The three stalls (along with the 120-foot long turntable that rotates the trains) that the roundhouse currently houses is a severe reduction from the space that used to service nearly 32 locomotives. According to TRHA: “In its prime, the John Street engine facility contained 43 structures, several miles of track and covered nearly 16 acres of property. Up to 150 men worked in the facility 24 hours a day…Every day John St. locomotives hauled over forty CPR passenger trains in and out of Toronto’s Union Station.” From 1931-1986 the service centre was so efficient that vehicles that came through the roundhouse would be identified by their “John Street polish”.
Sidenote: The other attractions in Roundhouse Park are Steam Whistle Brewery (actually occupies stalls in the roundhouse) and The Rec Room. This 1997 restoration project turned 17 acres of underused prime real estate from a “shortcut path” between Lakeshore Boulevard and the Rogers Centre, to a booming site of activity with multiple venues.
Who knew that right across the street from a place where you hear the unofficial Toronto anthem of “Go JAYS Go” is a legendary piece of Canadian railway history. So perhaps the next time you’re walking on Bremner Boulevard heading to a Jays game, the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium or getting a pint from Steam Whistle Brewing you can stop by this wonderful museum. Fair warning, if it’s game day be prepared to “swim” through a sea of blue and white.
So after she takes a ride on the miniature train what sneaker does an afro rocking, unapologetically Haitian globetrotter wear while she’s making the world hers? We won’t throw the answer your way, but we’ll chuck you a few hints.
The Converse All Star “The Hippie Chick”… it almost seems like the name of the sneaker could be a moniker for Yasmine. Then again, that may be the exact point! Beyond the striking similarities between these colourful sneakers and our zen model is a sentimental story: “Those shoes mean alot to me! In highschool I had a sneakerhead phase were I would be really protective about the shoes I wore, and I would go home and clean them right away. I wouldn’t even tell people where I bought my shoes, and I was very proud of having clean shoes. And the reason why I have a ‘thing’ for those sneakers in particular is because fastforwarding to after highschool when I was in my first serious relationship I remember being insecure at times, and not always sure of myself. I remember him asking me to get rid of my shoes because they were ‘childish’, and I gave in. I gave away so many of my shoes, and I kept those. I’m not sure why I kept those shoes and threw away the others, to this day it’s one of my regrets. But to me those shoes were remnants of myself, in some ways, that I still got to keep.”
Now, that’s the definition of an All-Star… It’s stories like these that make you understand why we believe sneakers can be a source of empowerment. And this is why she.lace insisted Yasmine didn’t clean her Chucks before our photoshoot.
It’s as if every speck of dirt on her sneakers is a line in the storybook she’s writing. How obscene and unrealistic would it be if Yasmine’s sneakers were spotless? A journey as challenging as hers definitely calls for some dirty and anguished moments. After all, you don’t need to beautify “beautiful destruction”. But, let’s take a moment to really appreciate this High-Top Converse for the work of art it is.
The “Hippie Chick” is like an art canvas straight out of the 70s. Which makes sense because art and the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star are like paint and brush. she.lace weekly challenge: in the comments we want you to suggest an element of mainstream pop culture, underground cult classic, musical band, superhero, floral assortment, colour, texture, pattern or material (nothing to absurd now) that HASN’T been featured on this sneaker. This is why the All Star has achieved legendary status in the she.lace “Hall of Fame”, it truly is a canvas for art. For she.lace, the coolest part of the evolution of this sneaker from athletic enterprise to streetwear status symbol is the way in which the Converse brand interprets this transformation. For Converse, this sneaker was truly art…they put it in the public domain and allowed us, the people, to define and redefine what it was to be:
“We made them to sink jump shots on the court. You, however, saw them as something more… and started wearing our sneakers to do whatever you wanted. You played music, made art, skated the streets and kicked back. You wore them as fashion. You wore them to work. You customised them with your personal style. You did everything to them, and in them. You saw our sneakers’ unlimited potential.”
Sidenote: Perhaps, the originator of simple and sleek silhouette that has inspired countless renditions from all major brands. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star has come along way from its 1920 humble beginnings as footwear designed for basketball players to run up and down the court on. Through its marked journey, filled with high and low points, it has become a cultural staple. Complex gives us a list of 50 facts that show how iconic this sneaker truly is. And, check out this BBC article that gives you an account of the man, Charles ‘Chuck’ H Taylor, behind the legend.
And when someone like Yasmine laces up a pair of Chucks that unlimited potential is certainly realized. she.lace is putting on our Netflix hat with these sneakers (no, no… we aren’t trying to cause any “chilling”). How? Well, we’re providing visual entertainment from decades ago. Butterflies, cartoon teeth, balloon-like hands giving “deuces”, flowers and every colour on the spectrum are on display with this vintage pop art inspired look. These sneakers are a psychedelic animated personification of “Peace & Love”. Perhaps Yasmine even had a disco ball in that suitcase 😉… But we’re glad she didn’t pull out the bell-bottoms! Let’s just say she would have a hard time CONvincing is us we could still show off her Cons.
Model steam locomotives, hippie-esque sneakers that scream “peace and love” and a model who’s an intrepid traveller. It all starts to “add” up the more you think about it…the lessons learned from Yasmine MATHurin is something you can “count” on to provide wisdom haha. All jokes aside, Yasmine is a prime example of “Travelling to Destiny”. We might not all be able to relate to living in several cities and countries throughout our childhood, and having to travel back and forth. We might not be able to relate to spending the bulk of our adolescence living without our parents. We may not be able to relate to separating from everything and everyone you know in order to find yourself. These are stops on Yasmine’s journey, and the route your train is taking may not intersect at the same railroad crossing. Better yet, this is Yasmine’s story…a story of perseverance, community building, strong familial bonds and a quest to ensure she (and everything she represents) is seen and heard. It’s the story of a storyteller and the final chapter hasn’t even been thought of let alone written. Once thing we know for sure is Yasmine will be “travelling” as she continues to write her story. And she’ll have her distinctive afro out the window catching some breeze while she’s rocking some sneakers that spread “peace, love and positive vibes.” So, where’s your next trip and what are you packing with you? We suggest your luggage should consist of: a positive mindset, a good sense of humour and a willingness to change direction at a moment’s notice. Oh of course, some of so fly sneakers!…safe travels!✌🏾