Radical Soul
Radical Soul
Burlesque Artist Jenn Freeman/Po'Chop on the Erotic as a Divine Yes

Burlesque Artist Jenn Freeman/Po'Chop on the Erotic as a Divine Yes

Chicago-based burlesque artist Jenn Freeman, also known as Po'Chop about burlesque as a spiritually healing tool, the erotic as the holy spirit, and Jenn/Po'Chop's work creating sacred spaces and art on the Chicago South Side.

 As their artist statement so beautifully explains, "Our work is a reimagining of Lord as (Audre) Lorde where worship is a space where the erotic is regarded as the highest knowledge and ancestors are whispered into walls made of brown bags. Our healing is urgent. Through edifying the legacies of Black women and femmes we heal from the lessons we learned between pews."

Learn more at itspochop.com or follow Jenn/Po'Chop on Instagram  @itspochop .
Follow Jera on Twitter: @thejerabrown or Instagram: @thejerabrown
Email: jera@jerabrown.com


Po'chop  00:01

We've been raised to fear the yes within ourselves. And I know that that is very much true for me. So it really continues to challenge me to go for it to go for the yes within myself even if it's not logical.

Jera Brown  00:20

Chicago based burlesque artist Jenn Freeman also known as Po'chop uses elements of dance storytelling and striptease to create performances and inspire students and collaborators across the country. Jenn Freeman was recently named a 2022, United States artist fellow, and has earned several other distinguished grants and fellowships. Po'chop is the creator and author of the blog zine the brown pages and has performed at the Brooklyn Museum in brown girl burlesques body speak, you'll find Po'chop, performing in Jeezy's juke joint, an all black burlesque review as well as on Netflix easy season two, and in music videos for songs by Jamila woods and Michaele Deville Po'chop was voted number 10 Most Influential burlesque artists by 21st Century Magazine.

Jera Brown  01:09

Jenn and Po, thank you so much for joining me. So first of all, I found you I found out about you at Wild and sublime what was formerly known as super tasty. You were performing at the sex positive cabaret show, and I thought it was such a cool idea. And I didn't realize it was like one, like a one event as opposed to a thing that was ongoing. But I like made sure to grab your website and I've been, you know, really interested in your work ever since. And I wanted to start just by reading a little bit of your artists bio.

Po'chop  01:49

Yeah, go for it.

Jera Brown  01:50

Okay. "We are two Jenn Freeman and Po'chop and we create movement based performances. Our work is transgressive and pulls from drag and burlesque modern and praise dance, and spoken word and hip hop. Our work is reimagining of Lord as Audre Lorde, where worship is a space where the erotic is regarded as the highest knowledge and ancestors are whispered into walls made of brown bags. For healing is urgent. Through edifying the legacies of black women and femmes we heal from the lessons we learned between pews." And I think that comes across whenever I see any of your work that it's it's sort of well, I mean, it centers Audre Lorde, but it reimagines, like what church or sacred spaces could be and sacred community. So tell us a little bit about some of the work... first of all, tell us about Lordes house, or Lordes place.

Po'chop  02:46

Yeah, so house of the Lorde is opening on Audre Lorde's birthday on February 18. It is what I'm considering the prototype of my life work or my biggest dream, which is to start a church to actually reclaim space. A space that will be an art gallery, a reading room, a poetry stage, a dance studio. And also, yeah, a spiritual home. The goal is to eventually have ongoing services, potentially, you know, maybe monthly, bi weekly, or things like people's church of the ghetto happen ongoingly versus, like you said just one  time. Yeah, so the bigger dream is to reclaim an actual church space and have house of the Lorde in a church building that is in a historically black neighborhood in Chicago.

Jera Brown  03:43

And, folks, you can find out more of it at HouseoftheLord.com Lorde, spelled L O R D E. Okay, so, that's a taste of where you've, headed along your journey. So let's go back to where you started. So tell us more about like your spiritual roots.

Po'chop  04:02

Um, so I came of age in Missouri, in the region of the state that is considered the Boot Hill, the southernmost tip of the state. It's pretty South more south than I would say, Midwest. Heavily Christian, heavily conservative. I grew up in the church. We went to church a lot throughout the week, as well as on Sunday all day. And church was where I began developing my own artistic practice. It's where I began choreographing work for myself, and also for a team of folks, and we did what is called praise dance, which is a mixture of mime pantomime, lyrical dance and improv. And really up until I was 18. I was a devout Christian. I mean, I my goal when I left my town Poplar Bluff, Missouri is what it's called, when I moved away from Poplar Bluff to come to Chicago. My goal was to study dance at Columbia College so that I could develop a dance company that would travel the world, and essentially convert folks like, yeah, I was really into sharing my beliefs with others.

Jera Brown  05:25

So did you did you go to Columbia College?

Po'chop  05:28

I did go to Columbia College, I went for a whole, probably two years. Needless to say, you know, Columbia College is a liberal arts school. So it was a huge This was also really before the internet was like, as accessible, like back then you really couldn't like look up things, I think I might have, like, found a message board or something that was connected to Columbia, but that was it. So like I had, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. Um, so it was a huge cultural, cultural shock. Just yeah, on many different fronts on the spiritual religion side, I mean, I remember being on my dorms and like, setting up these Bible studies with folks at the, on the dorms, and like really trying to engage with people, and people challenging me. And I never really been challenged before. Yeah, as well as I've never really met any outwardly queer folks, before, on top of just being introduced to like modern dance, or just abstract art, which I again had never had any concept of. So it really, like kicked open the door to the world for me, and I ended up dropping out of school because it was too much, it was too much. And I felt like I couldn't focus on school because I was so overwhelmed with the inner work I had to do to just like, deal with my identity with how I was raised, and just like, come to terms with all of the stuff that was like in conflict, internally.

Jera Brown  07:08

I relate to a lot of that sort of, I went to a conservative Christian College, and started questioning my faith, but like, and so there still weren't any visibly queer people. But you know, started challenging things within myself. That probably happened a little later than you then like, after college, meeting people and being like, Oh, what the fuck? This is the world. This is what queerness looks like, Who the hell am I? But it's terrifying.

Po'chop  07:36

Yeah, yeah. Especially when I mean, all my family still lives in Missouri. And they still adhere to that lifestyle. So it was really difficult to, I mean, I was also really naive, like, I was, really, I was terrified. But I also was really excited. I was like, This is crazy. This is great. And so I remember going back home, really excited to tell my family all of this cool stuff about myself and the world. And I remember just being met, like a brick wall. Like they were like, I mean, yeah, they were like, this is not it. We thought you were gonna go to Chicago and like, change Chicago. And here you come. You know, the city girl, of the world as Christians like to say, yeah, yeah, it was wild.

Jera Brown  08:25

So you dropped out of school in this massive world worldview shifting, like, what happened? What did you do?

Po'chop  08:34

I was, so I dropped out of school, and I stopped dancing. And honestly, I think I just spent that time trying how to... figuring out how to survive, like, how to get a job, how to make money, how to pay rent, just like how to just like, do the basics of caring for myself. I don't even think that... I mean, this was also a very dark time in my life, because I came out to my parents at around that time, right before I dropped out of school. And that was like a whole, you know, explosion of it was like a Lifetime movie just like an explosion. Think dramatic. So it was a dark time. I mean, I was dealing with depression, all of that stuff. So really, I didn't do much besides just like, yeah, figure out how to work and pretty much that was it for probably three to four years. Yeah. Then after that is when I was introduced to burlesque

Jera Brown  09:31

were you living in Chicago at that time.

Po'chop  09:33

I was living in Chicago. Yeah. There was a brief moment. When I came out. I was essentially pulled out of school. By my parents. I was pulled out of school and forced to live back in Missouri. And my brother at the time, lived in Atlanta. He had also joined the army and traveled and experienced the world. So I think for him, he was like he had this mindset like you're not going to be in Missouri like you can be whatever wherever else you want to be, but I don't think you need to be in Missouri. So he came and got me and I lived in Atlanta with him for a couple of months, ended up coming to Chicago back on my own terms with his help, and support. Yeah, tried to go back to school. And that didn't work out. And then I was like, let me just work and like, figure out myself. And couple years later, fast forward, and I found burlesque someone introduced me to burlesque.

Jera Brown  10:28

Right. I'm excited. What did burlesque do for you?

Po'chop  10:32

Burlesque did so many things. I mean, first of all, like, it's crazy when I look back on that time, because I was so depressed. And I remember talking to my friend at the time, for some reason, I don't know what it was, like a time where people really didn't talk about therapy either. So like, I wasn't going to therapy. But I had this one friend who like, in a lot of ways was my therapist, like we would meet up and like talk about my depression. And she would take notes and like, it was really probably not healthy. But it worked. Because through those talks, it became clear to me that I needed... my depression was also connected to me, not connecting to my creative outlet that that that I had had my entire life. Yeah, so when burlesque came into play, it was like, I don't want to say the depression was gone. But it allowed, like an avenue for me to work through and process, all of that stuff I had experienced in college and my early 20s. Yeah, it also allowed me I think I was drawn to burlesque too, because up until this point, there was people telling me how to move, or how to dance. Even in church, there was like restrictions, like you had to, I had to make sure my body was covered, I had to make sure the movements, the movements couldn't even gear towards, like any hint of potential sexual things like I couldn't move my hips, like it was very strict. And so burlesque allowed me the ability to take charge of my artistic expression. I mean, everything that you everything that you witness, at least in my Burlesque is, like a direct reflection of me from my costumes from my music, like all the choices are mine. And I really relished in that and enjoyed it.

Jera Brown  12:30

So you discover burlesque, you start to have a new relationship with your body, and a way of, of moving through these issues, the creative outlet you needed to move through these issues. What's another pivotal moment where you start to reimagine or reground in your spiritual identity?

Po'chop  12:51

Yeah, so I was doing burlesque and I would say, probably about five, five or six years into burlesque. I was introduced to Audrey Lorde. Somebody gave me a poem, A Litany for Survival as a gift, I was going through a hard time, and they just was like, Hey, I don't know if you're familiar with this poem, but you should check it out. And that was like, huge. It was just huge. The poem was like, as soon as I read it, I was like, this is a prayer. So I began saying it as a prayer, treating it as a prayer, I would wake up and chant it, I committed it to memory. I wrote it on my wall like I was I just like clung to that poem. Still do. And from their from A Litany from Survival, I began just almost obsessively researching the life and work of Audrey Lorde. Yeah, and I mean, from there, I feel like from Litany for Survival, reading that in the studio chanting that in the studio, it was also around that time I was doing work. I was creating work about my grandfather, who was a heavy Christian. I was like reading his favorite Bible verses. Psalms 23. The Lord is my shepherd. And so I became obsessed with like, trying to reimagine that particular scripture, as Lord being Audrey Lorde, like I really tried to rewrite it, and also his favorite. hymn was Precious Lord. So then I started playing with the hymn. Precious Lord reimagining, Lord as Audre Lorde. And that whole process really kicked open the door to the larger work of like the People's Church of the ghetto. And before the people's church to the ghetto was another service called Thank the Lorde, which was the very first iteration of me trying to reimagine church services using Audre Lorde's work and writing as sacred texts. That's when I started working with uses of the erotic, the erotic is power. Reading that essay was another thing that was like. Like, it just blew my mind, and also angered me that nobody had taught me this work. I mean, when I was at Columbia, I definitely took, I think it was called back then a gay and lesbian course, her work never showed up in that course. Also, I mean, I, you know, dated a ton of women who never told me about her work never came up. And I was like, I remember feeling really infuriated and thinking, I want to ensure that this doesn't happen to other people that I can create as many channels through my work that people can be introduced to her work and other. Yeah, black woman.

Jera Brown  15:46

Yeah, it feels like black erasure in the feminist movements, right?

Po'chop  15:49

Yeah. Like it's just so funny, because Audre Lorde, you know, a lot of the quotes that people like to pull from, like, the Masters tools will not dismantle the Masters House, if you read that whole essay it's actually a speech that she's giving to white to like a conference, I believe it's white feminists. And she's like, I don't understand why I'm the only person on this board, like the only person of color on this board. Yeah, I think we forget that she like spoke out about that often.

Jera Brown  16:23

Yeah, yeah,  we tend to highlight the things that are comfortable to highlight.

Po'chop  16:27

Yeah. That look good on Instagram.

Jera Brown  16:30


Jera Brown  16:31

So how would you feel about reading A Litany for Survival for folks to introduce them to it? It's not that long.

Po'chop  16:39

No, it's not. Okay. Here we go. For those of us who live at the shoreline, standing upon the constant edges of decision, crucial and alone. For those of us who cannot indulge the passing dreams of choice, who love in doorways coming and going, and the hours between dawns looking inward and outward at once, before and after seeking a now that could breed futures, like bread in our children's mouths, so their dreams will not reflect the death of ours. For those of us who were imprinted with fear, like a faint line in the center of our foreheads learning to be afraid with our mother's milk, provide this weapon, this illusion of some safety to be found the heavy footed hoped to silence us. For all of us, this instant and this triumph, we were never meant to survive. And when the sun rises, we are afraid it might not remain. When the sun sets, we are afraid it might not rise in the morning. When our stomachs are full, we are afraid of indigestion. When our stomachs are empty, we are afraid we may never eat again. When we are loved, we are afraid love will vanish. When we are alone, we are afraid love will never return. And when we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering, we were never meant to survive.

Jera Brown  18:48

Thank you so much for that.

Po'chop  18:50

Yeah, thank you.

Jera Brown  18:52

I was just thinking the other day about the necessity of sacred texts and how when the texts that we've held sacred have been a part of our, our wounding that, you know, how do we find other sacred texts to hold on to and work with them in in healthier ways? So it seems like that's a big part of your work, you know?

Po'chop  19:16


Jera Brown  19:17

How do you how do you do that for yourself?

Po'chop  19:20

I think I just I work it into my process like, like Litany for Survival reading it. Um, another one is a me and my partner have recently gotten really into a poetry, poetry is not a luxury, like reading it. We were in a phase where we were reading it every night out loud to each other. And then just journaling about whatever came up or just talking about it. Yeah, I've been thinking about this as well, this idea of survival like how do the legacies of like Audrey Lorde How can I ensure that her legacy survives? I think part of it is like reading the text out loud, like going beyond just saying her name, but like reading her words out loud amongst people feels really important to me. So creating more spaces, where I do that, even if it is in the context of Cabaret shows, I've been known to just like, interrupt a cabaret show and be like, Yo, I'm about to do this poem or I'm about to read this essay, creating classes where that is like, that is the class, we read the text out loud. And we just maybe we sit in silence, or maybe we journal about it, or maybe we dance about it or create a painting. Like, I think those are ways that I've incorporated text into my process, I also get really inspired by words, I think, because of the praise dance this idea of pantomine I like cling to words, to inform my movement. So it feels really natural to to incorporate it into how I develop work.

Jera Brown  21:05

I was remembering.... so do you know, the practice Lectio Divina, I think I'm saying it, right, divine divine word. My dog's snoring beside me I don't think you can hear it. But it was a contemplative practice developed by the Desert Fathers in their early church, as a way of contemplating scripture in a way that allows like, the Holy Spirit to speak through it, you know, so that you can do it in so many different ways. But sort of the the way is to like, take a passage, read it, empty your mind, so that you're not logically trying to you know, parse it out and wait until a word or phrase shimmers. And it's likely than that those words, that there's there's something to be... like a sort of a personal message inside of them. And I was dating an atheist for a while and wanting to share this with him. And so we we opened up a book of global poetry. And he chose a poem from a Japanese poet, which I wish I remembered now, and did this practice with the Japanese poet, and it still works, you know, and it made me so happy that like the art is, there's a spirit in art, no matter what it is that, you know, we can connect to in some way, you know?

Po'chop  22:37

Yeah, that's dope.

Jera Brown  22:39

So I was thinking about what you're talking about Precious Lord, that the song and it shows up in Litany in your, your dance cycle. Can you talk about that? About Litany?

Po'chop  22:51

Yeah, so Litany is a five part dance film, that it kind of is a representation, I would say, of a good majority of my work thus far. That piece is dynamite, which was the piece about my grandfather, as well as there's two other chapters Torchy's Togs, which pulls from the life and work of Jackie Ormes. That piece first showed up in the People's Church of the ghetto. And the second piece, An Issue of Blood was also a kind of work that was reflected in the People's Church to the ghetto, and Thank the Lorde. The red figure, in red lace in all red is kind of my interpretation of or my imagining if the erotic was a Holy Spirit. And so Litany uses a Litany for Survival. And throughout the, it's kind of a thread throughout the five chapters. And eventually this year, there will be a full length film of Litany. So it was originally released each chapter separately over the course of 2020. And then this year, we will be releasing a full length film, weaving all five of the chapters together, but Dynamite that used Precious Lorde, that was really special to me, because I commissioned that particular rendition of Precious Lord, to be sang, by Chicago artists Avery R. Young and when I commissioned him, he was also a member of, he's also a member of the People's Church of the ghetto. When I commissioned him, you know, he's in the work he knows how I am, I asked him to, when he sang it, just think about Lord as you know, Audrey Lorde, and and I think he captured that.

Jera Brown  25:19

That's awesome. And it's really beautiful. It's stunningly shot.

Po'chop  25:23

So it was shot with my close friend and collaborator, Jordan Phelps, who also did the costuming, part of the costume for dynamite. He made the burlap pants. But he shot and he shot directed it and edited the film. Very talented.

Jera Brown  25:44

Alright, so the erotic as a Holy Spirit and tying that into Audre Lorde, Jesus of erotic, which has come up multiple times in this podcast. Thank God, thank Lorde. But yeah, what does that what has that done for you like the this new imagining of the erotic and how it can tie into like a spirit or a spiritual presence.

Po'chop  26:07

I think if freed my movement up, um, it allowed me, you know, I'm a trained dancer. Ballet and all the disciplines, I don't need to name them. But it allowed me it gave me permission to shed them to be perceived as you know, messy or chaotic or to follow impulses that maybe I can't see what the end result is. And it also allowed me to, to just go for it. Like, I think the part that I, that sticks out to me oftentimes is we've been raised to fear the yes within ourselves. And I know that that is very much true for me. So it really continues to challenge me to go for it to go for the Yes, within myself, even if it's not logical. And to to trust my gut. Again, I think it's something that I was trained to not trust, to not listen to that inner thing that like something's off, or something feels really good about this. It really forced me to sit down and relearn how to listen to myself, which is a life I think is a lifelong practice.

Jera Brown  27:37

Yeah, that's interesting. So like, the erotic as the Yes.

Po'chop  27:41

Yeah. And I think, you know, I, I literally just taught this essay in my, um, performance art class yesterday. And that's something that we talked about a lot is this idea of the Yes. within ourselves. How, like, for instance, I use the example of in the People's Church of the ghetto. There's a art installation that is 6000 plus, bags, open brown paper bags on the wall, that would never have manifested if I wasn't rooted in my erotic. I mean, the idea when it first came up in my head felt crazy, it felt irrational. I was like, What are you thinking? And I remember when it was all done sitting down and looking at it and like, just weeping. Because yeah, because it didn't make sense. Even just looking at it. It didn't make sense. But it was right.

Jera Brown  28:42

Tell us about it. Because I remember seeing that in litany out of context, you know, you're and I'm gonna butcher the name of it. So you have to say it again. That that piece of the Litany and then you reference the brown paper bags again in your artist statement, so just talk more about them.

Po'chop  29:01

So for me, I'm thinking about when building the people's church of the ghetto. I should also say the ghetto stands for greatest history ever told to our people. The P silent, is an acronym that came from one of the women that we were highlighting or uplifted Beauty Turner, who was a public housing activist. So the bags represent a plethora of things. I've always been obsessed or like interested in the Wailing Wall of having this like space to just go and just like, lay down your burdens or just engage with in a way that feels holy and sacred, as well as I mentioned Beauty Turner because the services were also geared towards Brownsville specifically in Chicago. Brownsville is historical for many different things, but specifically, it used to be the home for some of that largest public housing in Chicago and I believe in the world at one point, um, just massive, massive, massive buildings that are gone now. And I was I also wanted to kind of capture the vastness of those buildings, the yeah, this feeling that they went on and on and on, as well as the vastness of their loss, the vastness of their absence now. The bags became kind of an altar, not even kind of the bags are an altar. When we did the People's Church of the ghetto, there was no time for rehearsal. So we installed the bags over the course of three days. And then the services happened following so I had never really been in the same room with the bags, I never performed with the bags, I didn't know really what was going to come up. And so on the very first service, the services started with a reflection on Beauty Turner and then went into that was given by Tiff Batey and then went into what I call the devotion, which was a time to reflect on Audrey Lorde our prayer, which was a Litany for survival. And it was the devotion, was performed by me as the holy erotic spirit, then I stripped out of those clothes. And when I stripped out of those clothes, I put my face to the wall, essentially, I put my face to the brown bags for the first time. And from there came me whispering the names of the black women that we were uplifting for that service. So Beauty Turner, Jackie Ormes, Lucy Smith, Audrey Lorde, was what I was saying into the bags. From there, Tiff, who is considered the unofficial unlicensed pastor of the people church of the ghetto. Tiff, whenever we have a service will do some sort of offering some sort of invitation to the congregation. And so Tiff who was very intuitive and was also in her erotic bag, noticed this moment with me and the bags and incorporated that into the offering. So for the offering, folks were invited to come to the wall and whisper the names of black women and femmes who had made an impression on their lives. And it was probably, for me, the most beautiful moment in the service was the offering. I sometimes look at the pictures and still well up my eyes well up because it's just something about it was very intimate and emotional for folks. And just stunning. So the bags show up in Jackie Ormes as kind of... or in Torchys Togs and Litany as kind of this idea of an altar, a sacred space, and also the evoking of ancestors.

Jera Brown  33:09

So is there anything in your like your spiritual journey, like how how you became who you are today that, like, Are there any moments that we didn't cover that you feel like are very influential?

Po'chop  33:24

I don't think so. I mean, I think I think we covered them. Yeah, the coming out, the college situation was huge, the burlesque, finding Audre Lord, at then that kind of brings us to the present.

Jera Brown  33:39

All right, I have sort of a selfish question for you. So when I was 30, I decided to start going by my middle name Jera when I decided that I was going to write full time, because it's a lot easier to find online, that Jera Brown is a lot easier to find than Emily Brown. And it's interesting because people that knew me, then said that they felt like I'd outgrown Emily. And so now when somebody calls me Emily, there's this weird like, it doesn't feel like me anymore. And I've put a lot of who I was, like, in the closeted conservative Christian has sort of like become Emily to me and like Jera is the person who's like been able to free themselves in so many ways. And then I started doing sex work and developed this persona, that a lot of people know me as, and it becomes a natural part of who I am. And in the persona like my my clients call me sir, because I, I do a lot of gender play with them, and it's a way of making sure my queerness shows up in a space where like mistresses means a very specific thing and I don't want to be somebody's mistress, you know. But I've realized now that going by different names and having these different personas that show up, sometimes I feel very split like it's easier sometimes to be more, more present or more confident at times as Sir Brave, or other times like, like Jera feels more authentic and whole than Emily. And I'm wondering if you have the same, like, as Po'chop, like shows up for you and like is able to, to do things that like you want to do as Po'chop up and not as Jenn, how, how does that work for you?

Po'chop  35:31

Yeah. I think when I first started out, it was very, when I first started burlesque, it was very important to just be Po'chop, like, um, because it felt like, yeah, it felt really safer. And I felt like, capable of taking large risks. I often still say this and feel this way that in the context of Burlesque or cabaret shows, you know, people witness me performing as Po'chop, and then they come up to me afterwards and expect that same, like energy, and it's not there. You know, it was, especially in the beginning, it was really important for me to be like this like, badass, irreverent. I was very much inspired by Nina Simone who like told people to sit down or be quiet or whatever. So like, I would do that often on stage. Yeah, people would people would engage with me thinking that I was gonna be like, that energy forceful or yeah. With them. And I Oh, yeah. And so it created this, like, weird thing or expectation with people where I think people will often say, Oh, I'm intimidated by you, or, you know, bla bla, bla, bla bla. And I think, yeah, it also made me feel weird. Like it made me... I'm like, I'm a pretty humble person, like I don't, I don't know, I don't want people to be walking around thinking I'm like, this. I don't know, engaging with me, like I'm higher than them or some sort of thing. So that was weird for me. And then, around the time that I found uses of the erotic, it also became important for me to acknowledge my duality. I was also in the space where I was like branching out of strictly burlesque drag scenes and more into performance, art dance community. And I noticed that they were very uncomfortable with say, introducing me as Po'chop. So it became a way for me to cross over into other communities by acknowledging that I'm Jenn Freeman, as well. And also, another things I love about Audrey Lorde is that she spoke often about naming the power naming yourself, of defining yourself on your own terms. And Jenn Freeman was not the name that my mom gave me. My last name was, my born name was Harris Daly. And over time, I changed my last name to Freeman, kind of as homage to enslaved folks who shedded it their enslaved names, they went by Freedman. I love and appreciate my two-ness, because in a way, it allows me to navigate a wide range of communities. Sometimes I like to demand that people just call me Po'chop, because I can tell that it makes them uncomfortable. But oftentimes, I mean, oftentimes, I  just say, Jenn, or I say, you know, you can call me Jen or Po.

Jera Brown  38:30


Po'chop  38:30

But I do think it allows for, depending on the space, like, contemporary dance, or like, even in academia, I tell my students they're allowed to call me Po, like it's a it's a way for me to push against. Yeah, just standards that we think about names and identity. But it's interesting also, because in the burlesque world, I'm still like, don't call me Jenn. I'm Po'chop. I don't know why that is. But..

Jera Brown  38:59

Yeah, I think well, like with my fetish, and sex worker friends, like, if we call ourselves like, one name, or the other, we're putting, we're relating to each other in a certain way. And we're like, also putting each other in a specific headspace. For instance, like one of my friends was going through trauma, and like, did not want me to say her, her birth name, because to be put in that space meant to be put into into the trauma, you know, and so it was, it was an escape from the trauma. But it's not like these other identities that we've like created for ourselves are any less authentic, you know, and I'm assuming you feel that way about, you know, like your burlesque identity is not not real, you know?

Po'chop  39:44

Yeah. And it's not like I don't think my burlesque identity came out of nowhere. I still think it's rooted very much in a part of like, who I am.

Jera Brown  39:54

Anything else you want to share about like a spiritual identity grounded in the erotic

Po'chop  40:02

No I think it's necessary. Honestly. I mean I think it is necessary. I think when we think of even when we think of spirituality I think the spirituality is chaos in a way there's so many unknowns. There's so much just like I don't know unnamed I mean Audre Lord defines the erotic as a the recognition of unnamed or unrecognized feelings. And that to me sounds like spirituality like unnamed unrecognized things. stuff. Like I don't know how at this point in my life, I don't know how to separate them. They feel very much connected.

Jera Brown  40:47

We are going to end there. Find more at:

Po'chop  40:50

itspochop.com. I T S po chop.

Jera Brown  40:55


Radical Soul
Radical Soul
Formerly Left-Handed Journeys. Interviews with radical souls about their spiritual journeys, especially centering the stories of queer folks and sex workers.
This podcast is part of the larger Radical Soul brand which centers justice, strives to help others heal from religious trauma, and rejects white and Christian supremacy.
Want to be featured? Email jera@jerabrown.com.