CHICAGO — The arts collective at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network on Chicago's Southwest Side supports artists from across the country, encouraging them to inspire change through storytelling.
But the details of Cariol Horne's story, shared there during a summer of intense national conversation over police abuse, struck an unusually troubling note — Horne has maintained for 15 years that she was fired from the Buffalo Police Department because she broke ranks and saved a man who was being choked by another cop during an arrest.
Her dismissal, when she was just shy of 20 years on the job, cost Horne a full pension.
Now the dramatic story has become part of an unusual musical collaboration between IMAN founder Rami Nashashibi and a Buffalo music artist who wrote a nine-track album, a reflection on race and social justice that calls for spiritual healing and radical changes, such as a law Horne helped pen that makes it mandatory for officers to intervene and stop police abuse.
But Horne's story has not only been elevated in the music.
At the request of IMAN, powerhouse Chicago law firm Kirkland & Ellis agreed to review her firing and this month launched a court battle to get Horne's job back, a surprising new legal development in her long-standing effort to fight the decision that ended her career.
A legal team that includes a former White House chief legal counsel to President Barack Obama filed a motion in New York state court seeking to vacate Horne's firing, arguing it was "in the interest of justice" to do so. The filing cited recent examples of arrests that led to controversial deaths blamed on asphyxia, including those of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, which happened as fellow officers looked on.
"For doing precisely what we expect and hope from our law enforcement officers — upholding the law and protecting life — Ms. Horne was assaulted by her colleague, and her employment was terminated," the lawsuit reads. " ... In Buffalo, in America, and in the world the public is now recognizing the cost of not having officers like Ms. Horne who are willing to intervene."
The new legal battle has yet to play out in court, but on Oct. 22 Horne was at Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History in a dimly lit rotunda for the official listening party for the album, which includes the single "Mama Please," a song about police violence and oppression that spotlights Horne's story.
Horne, 52, sat listening in the center of the room with the producers, headphones rimmed in blue light snug on her head of white hair. She rocked gently, her head down as she listened to the lyrics.