From our partners at WDET, as part of our joint AAPI Stories project: Lily Mendoza and Jim Perkinson reflect on their relationship, their educational careers and dedication to social justice and how Jim had to learn how to eat like a Filipino. Share your story with us.

by Dorothy Hernandez at WDET

Within 24 hours of meeting at a conference, Lily Mendoza and Jim Perkinson knew they had found their life partner. Since getting married in 2004, they have built a rich and full life together as activists and educators who challenge their students to think more deeply about race relations and to share their personal stories while navigating the complexities of their relationship.

Lily was born and raised a pastor’s kid in the province of Pampanga in the Philippines. She came to the U.S. for graduate school in 1995. When she arrived, she worked on the indigenization movement in the Philippine Academy and in the Philippine diaspora in the U.S.“And so, that started my decolonization process, which is still ongoing after I met [Jim].”

Lily is a professor of culture and communication at Oakland University and the executive director of the Center for Babaylan Studies. She has written several books, including “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.”

Jim grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and came to Detroit in 1974 “to be part of a Christian community experiment on the near east side,” he says. The 15 years he spent as a part of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah “was the deepest part of my education … to learn about this place called Detroit from a point of view very different than I grew up in.” He’s also a professor as well as an activist and poet.

They reminisced about meeting, the poem Jim wrote that won Lily’s heart and building a life together in Detroit during a conversation recorded on a windy, chilly day on Belle Isle.

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