Shirley Douglas led an activist life. Notably, she helped to establish the fundraising group Friends of the Black Panthers. Her son, Kiefer Sutherland, commented in 2007, "She's one of the main reasons there were breakfast programs across Los Angeles run by the Black Panther Party."
In 2013, Shirley said "Their 10-point program was very close to the CCF [the predecessor of the NDP], except the Panthers wanted the right to bear arms to defend their homes."
In 1969, when she was 35 years old, she was arrested in Los Angeles for "conspiracy to possess unregistered explosives," after she allegedly attempted to purchase grenades for the Black Panthers. At one point, 70 armed police raided her Beverley Hills home.
Tommy Douglas, at that time the leader of the federal NDP, went to Los Angeles to support her and stated that he was "proud of the fact that my daughter believes, as I do, that hungry children should be fed, whether they are Black Panthers or white Republicans."
Shirley was also a co-founder of the first chapter in Canada of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament (in the early 1980s) and a long-time champion of public health care. She was the spokesperson for the Canada Health Coalition and was involved in the Toronto Health Coalition and Friends of Medicare Toronto.
In 1977, Shirley commented, "The word politics is so often misused. I don't believe that 300 members in the House of Commons are the only people who are involved in politics."
Shirley was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on April 2, 1934, and died on April 5, 2020 in Toronto where she had lived since 1977 (because the U.S. government had denied her a work permit due to her arrest).
Sutherland says, "My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life."
Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer. You can find him on Twitter at @CBrentPatterson.
Image: frank saptel/Flickr
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.