PHILADELPHIA–The Locks Conference, the natural hair, holistic health and beauty expo is set to launch its 21st edition in Philadelphia, Oct. 3 and 4. The event’s theme is “Black is Still Beautiful, Say it Loud, Wear it Proud.”

According to organizer Mamma Akosua Ali Sabree the conference is the brain child of the Kuumba Family, a collaborative of community activists who came together in 1998.   The intergenerational group takes its name, Kuumba (creativity) from one of the key principles of the Nguzo Saba, a collective of principles associated with Kwanzaa.

“The actual name for the conference is the Annual International Locks Conference Natural Hair Holistic Health and Beauty Expo,” said Mama Akosua.


The conference was initially a place where people who wore locks or natural styles could go for resources and get recharged because the general atmosphere for people who wore natural styles was so negative, she explained.

“People who had locks or braids were literally being beat up, harassed, discriminated against. The conference has since evolved from one day, one room to two full days utilizing an entire school setting,” said Mama Akosua.

Mama Akosua was quick to point out the conference goes to great lengths to only use Black settings and vendors. “One of our major goals is to build Black businesses,” she said. Incorporated into the philosophy of the conference is the Nation of Islam’s theme of “Doing for Self.”

The conference is really a cultural family affair, said Mama Akosua. “There are workshops on networking, relationships, child rearing, holistic health and wellness topics like how to eat properly, marriage and family, in addition to the hair workshops, she explained. “So it deals with family, culture, health and wellness and supporting ourselves.”

The gathering also reinforces the importance of natural beauty and culture in the community and principles reinforced by Justice Or Else, the 20th Anniversary gathering of the Million Man March slated for Oct. 10 which is advertised prominently in this year’s event journal.

Mama Akosua states the conference is an important event that helps Black people become recharged and renewed. “The hells of North America are very stressful so we are able to come together with like minds in a safe, loving environment. It also offers participants with access to Black business resources and different professionals,” she said.

The conference is also international in scope as participants from outside of the United States participate. “The conference is going on its 21st year and is healthy and growing. We have ten people on the Kuumba family organizing committee and family members are becoming younger. We have grown from 100 conferences participants to 5,700 last year.”

This year’s event is at Universal Audenreid Charter High School, located at 3301 Tasker Street. The conference will feature over 30 different workshops on a variety of topics. One of the key workshop presenters will be “The Doc from the Top of the Clock,” Dr. Safiyya Shabazz. An author’s round table will be held where new authors can share their books. Professor Griff of legendary rap group Public Enemy will also be in attendance.  

According to Mama Akosua the Locks Conference has the distinction of being the first and original Cultural National hair show in the United States. As a result of this influence, natural hair shows have spread throughout the country with a huge natural hair show held annually in Atlanta.

 “The conference is bigger than an Afro. It allows people to have a model for what they can come together and do. Often the community talks about what it can’t do but for 21 years we have demonstrated to the community the great possibilities based on faith,” said Mama Akosua.

For more information, visit the Philly Locks Conference: Natural Hair, wholistic health & Beauty expo page on Facebook or