Arkansas: Winning Fight to Wear Facial Hair

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[United Front] [Organizing] [Arkansas] [ULK Issue 49]
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Arkansas: Winning Fight to Wear Facial Hair

Here is an example of choosing a small winnable battle by utilizing a United Front theory in practice among prisoners of Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC), organized to overcome the oppressive penal system about the human right to wear facial hair. In January 2015, the U.$. imperialist supreme court ruled that ADC could not prohibit prisoner Gregory Holt from growing facial hair for religious reasons. Prior to this ruling prisoncrats argued that prisoners could hide contraband in their hair or beards. With the above court ruling, prisoners had to apply for a religious accommodation script in order to sport a beard. In the spirit of revolutionary change, the prisoners within Arkansas collectively organized and filed 5,600 applications requesting a religious accommodation. Also there were 607 grievances that protested that all prisoners should be allowed to wear facial hair. Because of the surge of prisoner requests and grievances ADC asked the board to remove the restriction, allowing all ADC prisoners to wear beards. Beginning 14 January 2016 all ADC prisoners were allowed to wear facial hair. It just goes to show the power of a United Front, when prisoners put their differences aside to accomplish a common goal.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good example of the power of united action, even in prison where the people have so little power. One element of a United Front that is critical to anti-imperialists is revolutionary leadership. While it is possible for people to come together under even reactionary leadership to effect change, it is revolutionary leadership that makes it possible to consolidate the lessons of the organizing work and push forward from a basic unity around one issue to a broader unity to build a movement that can take on the criminal injustice system. This comrade's example of the fight to wear a beard is a very good starting point. It is an issue that unites many, and beard restrictions are generally religious repression covering for national oppression, disguised as a security issue. We can expose how this repression fits into the broader problem of national oppression, which the Amerikan prison system reinforces. As people see their power to come together to effect change, and understand the system behind the individual problems they are fighting, we can gain more supporters and activists in the anti-imperialist struggle.

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