Extended Cuts: Outtakes From Mama Akosua Ali-Sabree Interview

Five Fascinating Facts We Learned From The Locks Conference’s Program Director

The International Locks Conference Natural Hair, Holistic Health & Beauty Expo is celebrating its 25th year as this region’s premiere expo for natural hair and holistic healing. I was there at the first one and intend to be there this upcoming weekend for this new milestone. It’s a Philadelphia stalwart, and an exciting gathering for artisans and entrepreneurs throughout the African diaspora and the patrons who love them.

I had the chance to speak with Mama Akosua Ali-Sabree, Program Director of the conference. The essay I wrote based on this conversation appears in the Broad Street Review, but below are some fascinating facts that didn’t fit into the article. Big thanks to my editor, Alaina Johns.

Locks Conference, Locks Conference, Locks Conference
Courtesy of Locks Conference dot com

The organizers of the International Locks Conference pride themselves on their founding principles.

Mama Akosua Ali-Sabree: I guess it’s a compliment that we have so many brothers and sisters across the country now doing natural hair shows. Ours still remains the number one cultural natural beauty show because we use the Nguzo Saba and Ma’at as our principles.

None of the current Locks Conference Organizers do hair.

MAAS: None of the people who are the organizers–different than when we first started–actually do hair. We have health practitioners, therapists, graphic artists and designers. None of us actually have a hair business. Around the country, most of the hair shows are related to someone’s business. Like Taliah (Waajid) was one of our presenters when we first started, and now she does the World Hair Show in Atlanta and New York. So there are others who came through Philly and the seed was planted.

Locks Conference, Locks Conference, Locks Conference
Courtesy of LocksConference dot com

Vendors and attendees come from all over the world (hence why it’s called the International Locks Conference, I suppose.)

MAAS: [When asked what percentage of vendors are local vs. national vs. international] It breaks down to about 50% Philadelphian, 30% from around the country and 20% international.

It’s surprising we’re getting brand new people that are here in Philadelphia who’ve never heard of it when people come from around the world to be here. One year we had a couple come from Canada on their honeymoon. What’s heartwarming to me is we still have people that are excited about the conference.

The Locks Conference takes most of the year to plan.

MAAS: We actually start in November with a wrap up session. We have an awards and appreciation luncheon for our volunteers. We have four elements we want to pull off. One is the people who come to the conference. Two is the people who volunteer, doing the training and recruitment of them. Three is the presenters, vendors, and technical folks we contact in February, Security is done in February as well. It’s sort of a year-round planning. Our flyers are out in May. We actually go to NY in July and go to the big festival and remind our vendors. We were told that the millennials don’t think about anything until 2 weeks before! (Big laugh for us both)

Locks Conference, Locks Conference, Locks Conference
Courtesy of Locks Conference dot com

“The tradition continues” is not just a slogan.

MAAS: We have families that have grown up at the conference! There’s folks who weren’t born when we started and now they’re bringing their families and that is like oh my god!

(Also, Ali-Sabree’s own daughter, Sakinah serves as the Operations Manager for the Locks Conference.)

Locks Conference, Locks Conference, Locks Conference
Courtesy of Locks Conference dot com

I can’t wait until this weekend when I can Buy Black, listen to some great music, see friends I haven’t seen in a bit, and pick up some essential cultural items that bind me to my folks and my history!

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