Name: My name is Diana Marie Odisho. I write under the name Ink Tipped. The persona behind the pen name and the person behind my name are both the same and different. They know each other very well, but may react differently in situations. But I am also the pen. Ink Tipped comes from an early piece I wrote describing my relationship with writing: "Pacing along with an ink tipped walking stick... It is my cane, my crutch and at times, my weapon."
Hometown: Mount Prospect, Illinois
Where is your family from? My family came from Baghdad, Iraq, to Chicago in the 1970s.
How did you get involved with spoken word? I grew up listening to hip hop and rap. I remember being really young with my brother and cousin Joey, listening to Naughty by Nature's song, "Hip Hop Hooray" on a loud stereo system in his blue pick-up truck. As I got a little older, I listened to Tupac, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Eminem, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def and Dilated Peoples almost daily. I loved to watch "Def Poetry Jam" on HBO. I was inspired by the fluidity and creativity of the rappers and poets. They always delivered a bit of wit, or a heavy handed punch. That's what I loved. When I was in high school, this rhythmic culture of speaking your mind became a part of me and my writing. A quest for justice and equality was wrapped up inside of it, too. At the same time, I was reading Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson for English classes. I was so fascinated by the versatility and beauty of the English language, literature and poetry. I knew then, that somehow I was going to blend the various styles.
[In high school] I was a junior when 9/11 happened and a senior when the U.S. went to war with Iraq in 2003. The general population was quickly siding with [then] President [George W.] Bush, including my classmates. I remember being one of few students against the war. After hearing some students say things like, "We should just drop bombs on all of them," I was compelled to say something. One day in a class discussion, I asked, "Can you guys even show me where Iraq is on a map? Do you know that my entire family is from Iraq? Do you know I have family members still living there?" There were only a handful of Assyrians at my high school and we were pretty much unknown. We had to defend our identity ourselves, class by class, student by student. Some sensitivity surfaced after that discussion, but I wondered about schools where no one had ever heard of Assyrians.
I took this pain and passion right to my performance pieces. This is what I love. I have performed at open mics around the Chicago area up until my mid twenties. After getting married and starting a family I took a break from performing. I'm finally getting back into it again; it's more than important to make time for what you love.
Is your family supportive of what you do? Yes. They are very aware of my passion for writing and speaking. They are supportive, proud and positive.
How does the situation concerning Assyrians in the Middle East affect you? I have always felt Assyrian, because I am, of course. But I have also wondered, am I Assyrian enough? As an American-born Assyrian, never seeing our homeland, I have always had this sense of longing for [a] place I don't know. I have heard endless stories about this dream land. What I envision is the place painted in my mind, based on the memories of those I love. I am certain it has withered. It is quite a juxtaposition of identity.
Most importantly I realize our peoples' current situation in our homeland is dire. We have the responsibility to act today. Now. Those people who were uprooted from their homes and taken as hostages, or worse, could have been us. This is reality. Complacency is a criminal act. I cannot pretend [that] this is not happening. I urge my Assyrian sisters and brothers to continue raising awareness. Our voice is the voice of the silenced, the raped, the crucified and all exiled souls of Assyria.
Who are some artists you have worked with? I haven't done any other official collaborations other than what is in the works now with my dear friend, talented vocalist, Rachel Sarah Thomas aka KSRA.
Congratulations on the release of the "Cuneiform Graffiti" video. How long did it take to shoot the music video? What was the experience like? The music video for "Cuneiform Graffiti" took almost one year to finish. This sounds like a long time. It was. But you need to account for the amazing locations that we scouted and shot. Also, we all had varying schedules. Our incredibly talented friend [and] director Dennis Joseph had a clear vision of the story from the beginning. He and Rachel took this puzzle and quickly put the pieces together. I couldn't have asked for a better group to work with. Also, the cast and living portrait folks were crucial to depict Assyria - she has an endless array of beauty. We are so thankful to everyone involved and everyone who supported us.
Has Assyrian music influenced you in any way? I'm sure it has. It was definitely always [playing] at home, in the car, at parties and weddings. I have grown more of a liking to it now. My husband and I definitely make sure our son is around the sound and style in his early years, so as to keep the language, culture and traditions alive. I'm sure my husband will teach him how to dance khigga! Lord knows I can't!
Who are some of your favorite artists? Well, I had three cassette tapes as a little girl: Mariah Carey, Madonna and Linda George! I played these tapes all the time. I would have to say, hands down Linda George [is my favorite]. Her voice was just amazing to me as a kid especially in "Khamra Teeqa (Old Wine)."
When can we expect new music from you? By the end of this year I hope to publish a collection of poetry and artwork with an audio of my performance pieces. God willing.
Who’s an artist you would love to work with in the future? In a fairytale, Dessa. She is an extremely talented writer, emcee, vocalist and spoken word artist. Serj Tankian is also a genius. Thankfully my younger brother introduced me to his music years back. His poetry and solo projects are unique and avant garde. I would love to work with anyone really. I love blending ideas and styles. Putting words to music was a new thing for me because I usually perform a capella. Rachel taught me how to run with it. So I don't really have any barriers to any style or sound. It's all about the journey!
What would you tell young Assyrians that want to get into music? You will find yourself doing things you hate, if you don't do what you love - which will be starring back at you in the rear view mirror, mad as hell. It's simple. If you enjoy something more than anything else, that is your calling. As creative people, we are usually very sensitive and many of us are perfectionists. This is a dilemma in itself because perfection doesn't exist. So if you want to please the world on top of this, it will be a rough ride. I believe that God will always guide you and protect you. Know that your talents are gifts that are meant to be used in this world. By way of your art, you will save a life, heal a wound, encourage, teach and love.
Do you have any regrets? Yes. I regret wasting time. Don't waste time.
Portions of this interview have been edited.