In 1999, speaking at a party for recently released political prisoners, community organizer and former Black Panther Safiya Bukhari reflected on the ambivalent nature of the occasion. It was a celebration, but also a kind of mourning. “Every time a freedom fighter comes home, it’s like a part of us is out there again, it’s like a ray of hope for everybody else,” she said. “But when you leave, and you leave those others behind, it’s like you leave part of you inside the institution.” As Bukhari told it, liberation was a project for the collective. No one gets there alone.
Zakat, an annual tax on wealth that is one of the five pillars of Islam, is a foundation of that tradition. There are eight uses for it, including helping the poor, and throughout the month of Ramadan Muslims contribute to zakat-eligible charities and fundraisers. But the Quran also specifies one use as to “free the captives [or slaves].”