Clara Rose Thornton finds real rootedness in a diverse Ireland
2018-02-15 17:01:00 -


By Kathryn Wooldridge

Born and raised Chicago native, Clara Rose Thornton describes herself as the ultimate seeker: “I seek to push beyond ideas of what others see as limitations for me — limitations of gender, of race, of nationality.”


Living in six different countries, the adjustment process for moving to new places has never been shy of exciting for Thornton. “Perhaps it’s my Gemini side, but that’s why I love being a freelancer, consistently adjusting to new projects and rhythms,” she says. 


Other than being a journalist, Thornton specialises in discourse on the issues of feminism and racial injustice, as well as arts and their intersection with socio-politics and identity politics.


In the summer of 2013, Thornton moved to Dublin after a year-long world tour with her jazz poetry band Vice & Verses. “When we got to Ireland, I fell in love with Dublin’s performance and journalism cultures, specifically the public’s love for radio, and it made me want to stay.”


Even for a well-traveled artist like her, adjusting to new places does have its hardships. After five years, Thornton says is beginning to finally feel rooted in Ireland. 


“Everything that comes with a feeling of genuine rootedness, real friends, routines, financial rhythms, knowing how to get around a city,” she says, “It has been hard-going, despite finding artistic recognition here early.”


One thing Thornton found fascinating was the general stereotype that the Irish are friendly and welcoming was confirmed true. However, she also found that since the country is a small island, cliques seem to form easily. 


“It can take a very long time to be genuinely accepted into circles, especially if one is a foreigner,” she says. “People can be innately wary of difference here, even of someone from a different area of the same neighbourhood. Once you’re in, though, the bonds are deep-seated.”


Ireland is gradually becoming a melting pot of various cultures, and Thornton has been front end when it comes to learning about immigrants like herself. “Ironically, even though I’m from North America, living here has afforded me the most time learning aspects of South American culture,” she explains. “In the United States the Latinx population is primarily from Mexico and Puerto Rico.”


Thornton has also had the privilege to work closely with African nationals on educational and political projects in Ireland. “Many of theses collaborations have been from Nigeria, Malawi, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya,” she says.

‘I’ve got the sword and shield’

Being an immigrant and a minority in a predominately white country comes with conflict as well, especially when arriving out of the blue and projecting a voice, Thornton says. “Many individuals do not like it, and will let it be known in various ways.”


Immersing in a different culture hasn’t put a hold on Thornton’s achievements. One thing she was sure she wanted to do in Ireland was “to universalise the state of the ‘other’,” she says. “I’ve got the sword and shield, beauties. Let’s go.” 


Being respected as a representative for underrepresented voices in a foreign land is something that one should hold at a high standard, Thornton believes. In 2004 she founded a company in Chicago called InkBlot Complex to have writing, editing, and entertainment services all under one umbrella. The company focuses on how art, social justice, identity politics, history and place all intertwine. “All of my workshops and the literary and music events I organise are under the banner of InkBlot Complex Poetry Workshop,” she says.


By clinging to those high standards, Thornton has been rewarded by winning the Dublin/Leinster Slam Poetry Championship and becoming a broadcast journalist with RTÉ television within eight months of moving to Ireland.


Within her fields, Thornton says the work atmosphere is different compared to America, but in a positive way. “Irish culture possesses an adoration of the human voice telling a story. It’s why poetry, spoken word, storytelling and talk radio are so prevalent.” She also finds the atmosphere less competitive than back home in the States.


However, Thornton is clear that Ireland still lacks the diversity it needs to thrive. 


“Ireland needs diversity education, as it’s only been diversified on any noticeable scale in the last 20 years,” she says. “There’s so much xenophobia in a country that’s ironically proud of having the largest diaspora in the world, at 60 million.


“Ireland is a country that could prove to be a vanguard of tolerance in a far-right west. People of conscience are working tirelessly to get there.”


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