After Candice Wiggins won a WNBA championship with the Minnesota Lynx in 2011, she knew there was more work to be done. She began a project that she called, “Radical Chick.”
“I went into deep introspection about my identity,” Wiggins says. “I learned more about my dad’s identity and how he was so radical, and how that almost destroyed him and just his endurance. I felt connected to that part of my entire life.”
The project succored Wiggins into finding her inner voice that she longed for after a summer of solitude and self-reflection. By recreating classic photos of the 1960s, Wiggins paid tribute to Black activists, professors and actresses who fought for freedom.
In 2010, Wiggins returned to Stanford University to finish up her final semester of school. She took a 1960s class which led her to Tom Wolfe’s essay, “Radical Chic” that talked about Wolfe’s real-life experiences he had with the Black Panthers.
“I was so returned back to my love and passion for these figures. These are figures and heroes that were lifelong heroes for me,” Wiggins says. “I went to the Radical Chic myself and changed my wardrobe to all black and I had permed my hair so these pictures and images was just me capturing that energy and also how I felt about being a woman in the WNBA.”
Radical Chick is a creative project that brings awareness to societal issues that plague the Black community, and for some, the project helps them conquer their fears of self-doubt and insecurity. Now more than ever, projects like Radical Chick are needed to shed light on such darkness.
“Everyone has an original identity, and that’s what the activism is—it’s your identity contributing to the masses,” Wiggins says. “Once you create your activist character, it takes self-reflection, it takes time, but you should educate yourself and be led by yourself. Then you will understand the order of who to follow.”
As early as 9 years old, Wiggins knew she was an activist at heart but couldn’t quite figure out what to do or say to make change. Growing up in an affluent home, Wiggins often was the only Black child in school. This made it difficult to find her voice early on. She began to educate herself more on Huey P. Newton’s ideals, efforts and philosophies; in doing so, Wiggins realized that Newton reminded her so much of her father, Alan Wiggins. This understanding helped her gain a spiritual connection with her father, who died when she was only 3 years old.
“To everyone who knew [my father], he was like a renaissance man and one of those people who could be correlated to Malcolm X and Huey Newton,” Wiggins says. “Huey Newton, especially, because everything was similar—their past, their trajectory. It’s the fate of my dad that I was always interested in. So when I learned that he suffered the same fate as my dad, he became prominent.”
Wiggins chose four eminent figures to recreate their likeness and legacy. Huey P. Newton’s recreation was chosen because he exudes self-defense. Pam Grier represented female power, strength and sensuality of feminine Black American expression. Angela Davis represented freedom, women empowerment and fearlessness and Kathleen Cleaver exemplified power, education and liberation.
Wiggins believes every athlete has a responsibility in the great fight for freedom.
“There’s a call that you have outside of being an athlete and your job is just to meet that call,” she says. “Meet each opportunity that you have individually because it’s the individual and collectiveness of all understanding to be on one page. The reason why these movements were able to happen in a positive way is because everyone had one understanding to be together.”
Through Wiggins’ imagery, Radical Chick helps us realize that there is work yet to be done to achieve change. How will you use your voice?
Ashton Edmunds is a Marketing Intern at SLAM. You can follow him at @ae11__.
Photos courtesy of David Sherman