This year marked the twenty-third consecutive year for the International Locks Conference Natural Hair Care and Beauty and Holistic Health Expo in Philadelphia. The Conference was held at the Universal Audenreid Charter High School in South Philadelphia. It is a venue that unashamedly and unabashedly celebrates Black beauty, natural hair, and fashion. It is a safe place for Black people to celebrate themselves, organizers say.

Each year the conference offers informative and timely workshops, panel discussions, product and service vendors, live demonstrations, fashion shows and fun for the whole family. The conference conveners plan the event a year in advance and it always takes place the first weekend in October. It is the nation’s original conference focusing on the totality of being black in America. Although it began as a celebration of natural hair, hair care, beauty products and services, over the years it has evolved into a showcase of lifestyle, fashion, health wellness, and political and community action.

The highlight of the conference is the closing fashion and hair care exhibition and competition.

Vending and shopping is integral part of Locks Conference | photo by Junious Ricardo Stanton

The conference offers an opportunity for creators and entrepreneurs to showcase their natural hair care and beauty products, their hair, fashion, weaving and locking services. Vendors, providers, speakers and visitors come from around the world to participate in the two day event that runs from twelve noon to nine-thirty at night Saturday and Sunday.  This year the conference’s theme was Educating Our Own with panels on: Charter Schools and Independent Schools and Creating our own Educational Institutions. Mass Incarceration was addressed in a workshop led by Fred Hampton Jr Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. The Hair Hut provided workshops on topics such as: Natural Hair 101, Loving My Hair With Style the Natural Way, Locking 101, Choosing Products for our Natural hair Care, African Inspired Art of Head wraps. Meditation rooms were available and a space where you could get a neck and shoulder massage, foot reflexology and energy readings.

Hourly demonstrations were offered on a myriad of subjects like African Martial Arts, Soul Line Dancing, Nigerian and Ghanaian pottery making, Relationships, Black Dolls, Entrepreneurship, Staying Healthy Naturally and for the children there was face painting and story telling.

The Locks Conference is home to holistic health workshops, lectures and demonstrations of alternative and natural health and healing modalities featuring practitioners of modalities such as reflexology, acupuncture, Tui Na massage, iridology, natural childbirth, ionic detox foot baths, electro-meridian energy scans, herbal remedies and midwifery.

The annual conference is a holistic event covering all facets of the black struggle to be themselves in an hostile and oppressive environment: economics, social issues, political organization, personal and collective transformation, health and wellness, relationships, empowerment strategies, information, dance, culture, history, natural hair care and fashions.

The popular food cafe/court offers fresh juices, natural, vegan, raw foods and healthy deserts prepared in unique fashion by local health food restaurants, caterers and vendors. It stays crowded and the people seem to really enjoy the food and atmosphere the food court provides.

Professor Griff of Public Enemy is a perennial conference favorite, this year he presented a PowerPoint lecture entitled deconstructing the Religious Mind F____. Other local and national luminaries such as Dr Walter Palmer, Queen Mutima Imani, Marcus Kline, Gwen Ragsdale, and many other participated in the workshops, had booths and tables and helped make the conference informative and enjoyable.

Each year the conveners attempt to add something new to keep it fresh and energetic so it will expand and ripple out into the Diaspora.

Shakinah Sabree one of the producers and conveners of the conference was pleased by the turn out during this year’s event. She shared what was unique about this year’s conference. “The Locks Conference is the most anticipated cultural event of the year and if you are not here you are missing out. We have almost tripled our attendance this year. That’s truly amazing. We have picked up our advertising quite a bit, we’ve come up with different workshops. We’ve been able to reach more young people this year.  This year it’s all about the youth, homeschooling and proper schooling for our children. We’re really trying to build independent schools and educating our youth properly, that’s the main thing that’s different about this year.”

To participate in next year’s International Locks Conference or for more information about the conference call 215 438-8189.