International Locks Conference Coming in October

By Ayana Jones

The 23rd Annual International Locks Conference, Natural Hair, Holistic Health and Beauty Expo, hosted by the Kuumba Family Institute, Inc., is scheduled for Oct. 7-8 from noon to 9:30 p.m. at the Universal Audenreid Charter High School, 3301 Tasker Street, Philadelphia.The conference is regarded as one of the nation’s oldest natural hair shows.

Building on the enormous popularity locks have engendered around the world, this year’s conference, with partners from the holistic health and beauty industries, will emphasize the importance of culture stemming from African roots, and the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses.

“We’re actually the first in the country. Other natural hair shows have grown out of what we started here in Philly,” said Dr. Akosua Ali-Sabree, the program director of the conference.

“The difference here in Philadelphia is, it’s cultural in that we include live music and libations and encourage people to have a connection to our aboriginal and African roots. We also strongly support Black businesses, whereas other natural hair shows around the country are primarily focused on hair.”

The expo offers a natural hair show, a fashion show, a holistic health pavilion, hair consultations, 30 workshops and panel discussions on topics ranging from hair care to healthy relationships and alternative education for children. Other features include the cultural marketplace with 100 vendors, a natural food café, dance classes and a children’s village with kid-friendly activities.

Organizers want the expo to be an enjoyable, educational experience for attendees. The historical significance of locks will be highlighted during the conference.

“We don’t call them dreadlocks because a lot of people don’t understand the significance of where that meaning came from,” Ali-Sabree explained. She said many often assume that people with locks are Rastafari.

“They don’t realize that if you go back 3,500 years ago, a lot of statues were wearing their hair in locks and in a number of countries. Wearing locks signified your coming of age – it signified your position in society,” she continued. “We not only talk about styling and the care but also the cultural significance and the cultural richness that goes along with that.”

The event features many presenters including Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee//Black Panther Party Cubs; Dr. Ali Muhammad, scholar; Dr. Marcus Kline, director of the Freedom Home Academy; Ramona Africa, the lone survivor of MOVE; and NatakiKambon, the spokesperson for LetsBuyBlack365.

A new addition to this year’s programming includes Books for the Watoto (children’s book drive). Books will be collected for children ages newborn to 16 years old. They will be distributed to children in the Onysnsana Village in Ghana and an independent school in Philadelphia.

In honor of authors such as Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, Dr. Amos Wilson, Dr. Edward Robinson and Gwendolyn Brooks, the conference offers an area called Ida B. Wells Row which is designed to connect readers and with authors.

The Locks Conference has grown significantly since its inception and now draws more than 3,000 attendees from around the country. When a small group called the Kuumba Sisters held the first conference in 1995 at Temple University, it was a small, one-room affair.

“They came up with the idea of Locks the Alternative because in the 80’s and 90’s, people were being harassed for wearing locks. The conference came out of a need to support businesses, to celebrate our natural hair and look at how we could be healthier together,” said Ali-Sabree, who is a holistic health and wellness educator.

Over time, the organizers decided to expand the event’s focus. “We knew that we had to give it a wider view because people when they see the word locks, they automatically think of hair and it’s so much more than that,” Ali-Sabree continued. “We expanded the name to the International Locks Conference – Natural Hair, Holistic Health and Beauty Expo because it was international in terms of people coming from out the country.”

For information about the event visit Ayana Jones may be contacted at


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