Women talk justice, wellness, and products at Kinks, Locks & Twists Conference

For black women, hair — and everything it connotes — can be a political act. How hair intersects with social justice and other issues will be explored at the eighth annual Kinks, Locks & Twists conference, which runs throughout the weekend in Philadelphia.

Black women would love to find that magic bullet — that must-have product — that will condition their kinks, love their locks and thicken their twists.

But at the eighth annual Kinks, Locks & Twists Conference, you realize that hair is only an entry point for a much broader discussion about creating social change.

“As women of color, from a very young age, we’re told to tie our hair back or flatten it to make it look more professional,” conference organizer Lexi White said.  “Or, if we’re going to church on Sunday, tie away that hair.”

White,  policy director for New Voices, the Pittsburgh-based human rights group hosting the conference, says panel discussions will address the importance of freedoms for women of color — freedom to live in environmentally healthy places; freedom to choose whether to have children; freedom to decide how to wear your hair.

“It’s really liberating when we can make those decisions for ourselves and embrace our beauty and our natural features, whatever that means for us, and take care of them in a way that’s healthy,” she said.

Philadelphia presenters include Dorothy Roberts, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Jacquilen Tomas, Ali, a naturopathic physician; and Janielle Bryan, a sexuality educator and blogger.

Pittsburgh resident Sheba Gittens came to sell jewelry and hair products, but said it’s comforting to be with other women of color, especially in the wake of last weekend’s violence by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“It’s a space for us not only to fellowship, but to learn and to see folks and see that we’re not the only ones out there … sometimes you think you’re in this fight by yourself, but you ain’t crazy,” Gittens said. “You’re fighting for justice and equity, and that is why we’re here.”

Not to mention finding that elusive hair product. White said you shouldn’t have any trouble.

“I think the sisters will take care of you, and you’ll have a lot of different things to try,” she said. “Hopefully, people will be able to leave with something they like.”

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