Originally posted on June 1, 2021. Updated on May 23, 2022. 

It was love at first sign. The moment Lily Mendoza and Jim Perkinson met at a conference, they each knew they’d found their life partner, and since getting their life together as activists and educators have been full and rich, yet embedded with its own cultural complexities.

Mendoza, who was born and raised as a pastor’s child in the province of Pampanga in the Philippines, came to America for graduate school in 1995. When she arrived, she began her work on the indigenization movement in the Philippine Academy and on Philippine diaspora in the United States. 

“And so, that started my decolonization process, which is still ongoing after I met (Jim),” Mendoza said. Today, she’s a professor of culture and communication at Oakland University and the executive director of the Center for Babaylan Studies, as well as an author who’s penned “Between the Homeland and the Diaspora: The Politics of Theorizing Filipino and Filipino American Identities,” and “Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory.” 

Perkinson, who’s also a professor and a poet, grew up in Cincinnati and migrated to Detroit in 1974 “to be part of a Christian community experience on the (city’s) East side,” he said. Being a member of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah for 15 years allowed Perkinson to learn about Detroit, and the people and cultures that call it home, through a different lens. 

Lily and Jim

Lily Mendoza and her partner Jim Perkinson sit on a bench at Belle Isle Park overlooking the Detroit skyline. | Photo by One Detroit

Now, nearly two decades after getting married, the couple sits at Belle Isle Park and reminisces about when they first met, the poem Perkinson wrote that won Mendoza’s heart, the cultural backgrounds they’ve had to learn about each other and what it’s been like building a life together in Detroit.

Watch Now:

Lily and Jim Reminisce on When They First Met and Jim’s Poem

Lily and Jim reminisce about when they first met, the poem Jim wrote that won Lily’s heart


Lily Recounts Her First Time in Detroit

Lily reminisces about meeting Jim’s friends for the first time and what stuck out to her about Detroit.


Reflecting on Kapwa and the Importance of Food in Filipino Culture

Lily and Jim talk about how they’ve navigated the differences between their cultures throughout their relationship and what they’re still learning.


Lily and Jim Discuss the Term Asian American

Lily shares why she identifies as a diasporic Filipina.

About this Project: 

For AAPI Heritage month, in partnership with WDET, Detroit Public TV is amplifying the voices of Southeast Michigan’s AAPI community by inviting them to have meaningful conversations and sharing their stories all throughout the year. Introductions for this story are produced by Dorothy Hernandez, WDET. 

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