My name is Ryan Huey and I am a PhD candidate in Michigan State University’s Department of History. In the summer of 2014, I completed my master’s degree in African American history at MSU. My thesis, entitled “‘My Logo is Branded on Your Skin’: The Wu-Tang Clan, Authenticity, Black Masculinity, and the Rap Music Industry,” placed the collective of rappers and their innovative aesthetics in historical context. I detailed several important themes: the impact of the War on Drugs on Staten Island Black youth in the 1980s and 1990s; the process by which Hong Kong action cinema garnered a cult following among Black New Yorkers; the entrenchment of rap music in the recorded music industry, and the legacy of African American chess in Brooklyn.
Now, as a PhD student in U.S. history, my dissertation research examines the origins and legacy of the Michigan counterculture from the 1950s-1980s. Specifically, I focus on John and Leni Sinclair, leaders of an artist collective in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, who became influential political activists by the late 1960s. Forming the White Panther Party (in solidarity with the Black Panther Party) in 1968, they were at the forefront of marijuana legalization, music promotion, prison reform, and the community control movement in Southeast Michigan. Their efforts to change the criminal justice system, create a sustainable sharing economy, and foster innovative art in Southeast Michigan demonstrate the counterculture’s significant imprint on public policy, media, and culture not only in the region, but across the world.
I currently hold a fellowship with Lyman Briggs College’s Scholarship of Undergraduate Teaching and Learning (SUTL) and am enrolled in Michigan State University’s Graduate Certification Program in Community Engagement.