BY EMELL DERRA ADOLPHUS
You won’t hear Michael Perkins on-air at WDET, but his work developing local partnerships for the nonprofit radio station certainly makes noise.
As corporate sales manager, Perkins works closely with a wide range of companies and nonprofits like the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Michigan Opera Theatre to support the station’s programming through underwriting. It’s a role that calls for someone who knows the Motor City and the stations audience says Perkins, a Detroit native who has been at WDET for 10 years.
“By being at the station, being surrounded by stories, it definitely made me more informed about all the different types of things that were happening in the city,” he says. “We make sure we represent issues that affect Detroit.”
Drawing on WDET’s moniker as the “voice of Detroit,” Perkins views himself as a “Detroit booster” of sorts–committed to spreading the word about Detroit’s many offerings as a city.
When he is not at the station, Perkins volunteers his time and voice to increasing awareness for various causes. He spent 17 years serving on the board of AIDS Partnership Michigan (now UNIFIED – HIV Health and Beyond). He chairs the Ruth Ellis Center’s annual Voices fundraiser and serves on the board of the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program. The common thread in his community involvement is helping underprivileged children, he says. Growing up gay during an intolerant time and raised by a single mother, Perkins says he can relate to the struggles facing kids on multiple levels.
“I think it’s much better now than it was when I was growing up. But that is definitely something that touches my heart and is part of my internal fabric,” he says. “So I think that’s why I have been drawn to the nonprofits I’ve been drawn to.”
Perkins lives in Rochester Hills with his partner of 28 years, Mark Blanke. Even though Detroit doesn’t have a physical gay district, Perkins says he sees LGBT people making an impact all over the city.
“Mark and I both have been doing volunteer work for decades. And we just have a very good sense of community here,” he says. “Bottom line. Detroit is a great city. It has a lot to offer. I am fortunate that I have friends that live in all the great cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and it’s nice to go and visit. But this is still home.”
Tools of Engagement
UNIFIED – HIV Health and Beyond
Ruth Ellis Center
Detroit Institute of Arts
Michigan Opera Theatre
This article originally appeared in Pride Source, Michigan’s Annual LGBTQ Magazine. BTL interviewed six changemakers in the LGBTQ community who use their “Tools of Engagement” to provide citizens with ideas and resources to transform their neighborhoods and empower them to make decisions that will create positive change.