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1 Sep 2017

The Kinks, Locks & Twists Conference: a holistic celebration of the complete Black woman

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September 1, 2017 Category: Beauty Posted by:

By Kendall Alexander


Preventative methods can stave off a lot of potential health problems in the future. But where can this information be obtained, especially in terms of reproductive health? How can women learn natural ways to care for themselves, instead of pumping drugs into their systems when there is pain or unexpected infertilization?

New Voices understands knowledge is power, which is why they brought the “Kinks, Locks, and Twists” Conference (KLT) to Philadelphia for the first time, from August 17-19. New Voices a Pittsburgh-based human rights organization with outreach extending to parts of Ohio, presented a variety of social issues they focused on including: reproductive justice; LGBTQ rights; healthcare access; ending gender-based violence; mass incarceration; environmental justice, and integrated voter engagement. The aim of the conference was to provide access for women to information on reproductive justice and solutions for ailments or issues they may have had with their bodies, especially those with limited access to healthcare.

The conference — now in its 8th year — opened at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture on Thursday, and the Friends Center for the final days of the conference. KLT is new to Philadelphia, but because New Voices seeks to expand their reach throughout Pennsylvania, they have found a home in this city.

La’Tasha D. Mayes

Founder, Executive Director, and renowned public speaker La’Tasha D. Mayes jumped at the chance to host the conference here for familiar reasons.

“New Voices Philadelphia just started two years ago, so we wanted to do the conference here to connect more people to New Voices,” Mayes said. “Philly is my hometown, so it seemed appropriate that we try to do this conference here in Philadelphia and not only did we try, we did so successfully, and I just can’t think of a better place to host a conference. The point for us also is to build our base of supporters across Pennsylvania so naturally we have to have a presence in Philadelphia.”

Sonya Renee Taylor

New Voices Philadelphia is located at 38th and Lancaster and has been there since December. They want that space to serve as a safe space for women of all shapes and backgrounds, as well as queer and trans people.

At first glance, the connection between environmental issue, reproductive health and Black hair might leave one, well, scratching one’s head.

But it shouldn’t, Mayes said. They’re all intertwined in the everyday lives of Black women.

Karen Washington

“Our hair is an access point to explore the intersection of health, beauty and the environment as well as the connection between environmental and reproductive justice. Reproductive justice is the human right to control your body, sexuality, gender, work, reproduction and ability to form your family. With reproductive justice consistently under attack, the work of New Voices focuses on our complete health and well-being. That includes our environmental health–be it in our homes, schools, workplaces, communities and our water. We are constructing new narratives that make environmental justice relevant to those most impacted.”

New Voices Philadelphia is located on 38th and Lancaster and has been there since December. They want that space to serve as a safe space for women of all shapes and backgrounds as well as queer and trans people.

Dorothy Roberts

While the angle for the conference was reproductive health, the overview is Black women’s hair. Black women have been inching away from permanent cream relaxers, or as they’re known to some “the creamy crack” for years now, opting instead to care for their natural coifs with organic hair products and less damaging oils. This being the case, why not take the chance to talk to women about their whole selves? Hair care starts the conversation, but holistic care and self-care, acceptance and love propel the conversation into reproductive and environmental health issues.

Conference programming was full and extremely informative featuring plenaries, workshops, health and wellness tutorials, and DIY activities all spanning some form of women empowerment, social, and/or reproductive justice. The line-up of featured speakers was a plethora of accomplished women. Karen Washington, a community gardener, agricultural trainer, and co-founder of Black Urban Growers (BUGS); Sonya Renee Taylor , former president of the New York Community Garden Coalition and a 2014 James Beard Leadership Award recipient; Dorothy Roberts, spoken word artist, educator, humanitarian, founder of “The Body is Not An Apology” movement,  author of “Killing the Black Body,” scholar, social justice advocate, and public intellectual, and Denise Oliver-Velez, former Black Panther and Young Lords Party member, applied cultural anthropologist and a contributing editor at the Daily Kos.

Denise Oliver-Velez

Oliver-Velez was a source of history and knowledge as attendants were moved by her recounts of interacting with famous activists and encouraged by her will to remain strong in the struggle.


“I count them as my kin. Not as my blood kin ancestors, but as my ancestors of the spirit,” she said. “So Ida B. Wells is my ancestor in the spirit, Fannie Lou Hamer…When she told me her story of sharecropping and men beat her half to death and thrown her in jail for the fact that she expressed a desire to register to vote, not just to vote, but to even have the audacity to register to vote, she was targeted and they wanted her dead. That changed my life around and it made me an activist for all women.”

Oliver-Velez recalled her encounter with Malcolm X, her work with AIDS activism, gender equality, and throughout her talk, encouraged women to speak up, speak out, and continue to be strong Black women in the fight.

The workshops offered were focused on reproductive health with a holistic approach, creating less wear and tear on the environment. Some were discussion based, while others were hands on and offering attendees the chance to learn through action. Herbalism and reproductive health workshop allowed women and men alike to become informed about how to treat menstrual pain and manage symptoms that come along with an irregular cycle or premenstrual symptoms through herbal methods.

Tinctures, infusions and decoctions were some of the methods discussed, as well as various leafs, herbs, and roots that can aid in calming the reproductive system. Those in attendance were encouraged to keep a body journal throughout their journey to note signs of improvement or methods that worked best for their specific needs. The types of foods ingested were also noted, as time and again detoxes were mentioned to eliminate chemicals found in an improper diet.

The Kinks, Locks, and Twists Conference allowed women to come as they were, and leave feeling informed, valued, and accepted completely and totally. The next conference will be in 2019, but everyone is encouraged to stay updated and get involved with the policies and procedures New Voices Philadelphia offers via their website at:

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