Take-Aways from the Neo-Natural Convention in Greensboro, NC

When I first heard about the Neo Natural Convention, I was pretty excited that founder Chisa Pennix-Brown decided to bring such an event to North Carolina since it seems that most events for Naturals happen in far off places, the closest of which is Atlanta. This was the convention's first year, and I expect greatness from it as it expands.

As you would expect at many conventions, there were vendors that were selling everything from beautiful jewelry, spa treatments, weight loss aids, and one-of-a-kind clothing. Designer Martone Evans of Bornatty is from right around the corner in Raleigh, yet looking at her colorful, flowing, Rasta-influenced designs conjure images of exotic, tropical places. S. Benson's designs reflect equal parts of sassiness, sexiness, and sophistication. Her African-inspired printed clutches, dresses, and skirts compliment all body types, from full-figured to small and petite.

I think my favorite part of the convention was the symposium featuring a series of discussions that spanned the spectrum of attitudes about black female beauty. Panelists like Baltimore Natural Hair Care Expo founder Malaikia Tamu Cooper and former Mrs. Black North Carolina winner and autoimmune disease advocate Sandra Dubose discussed topics ranging from the trend of butt implants, skin lightening, and disdain among some black men for natural hair. That last topic touched a nerve when this video was shown to the crowd, which was, of course, composed mostly of women with natural coiffed hair:


Malaikia Tamu Cooper called the man in the video a "buffoon" while designer S. Benson explained some of the sentiment.

" If you want to make the men stop talking about your natural, do your natural," says Benson. She says many natural women do not adequately care for their natural hair due to assumptions that care is not necessary for natural hair or excuses about unaffordable or unavailable natural hair stylists.

I agree with Benson on the point that adopting a natural philosophy toward hair doesn't exempt a woman from the responsibility of proper hair care and changing up styles now and then, but there will always be black men who prefer a waterfall of straight hair down a woman's back to a majestic cloud of Afro-textured hair. As one of the participants in the symposium mentioned, we usually think of the historical conditioning against our natural beauty as only affecting black women, but black men were affected just as, if not more, severely. Although this video is meant to be comedic, the sad reality is that many black men (and women!) say these things and worse to Naturals everyday.

Overall, this was a great event. I would definitely go again, and next time I'll strut in the fierce shoe challenge! For more information about future events, visit the Natural.Biz page on Facebook.