“South Carolina is a beautiful state, and we are a diverse community,” local social worker and social justice activist Mariangeles Borghini says. “And we don’t all fit under that symbol.”
On June 20, 2015, thousands of people gathered on the State House lawn. A symphony of car horns sounded in support and agreement upon entering the scene, and chants of “Take it down!” flooded the streets. The people of Columbia united for one cause—the removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. Borghini was one of the driving forces behind this movement. Along with Emile DeFelice, head of Soda City Market, and Tom Hall, attorney and filmmaker, the trio created an event that changed the game of rallies in Columbia, in South Carolina, and in the nation.
“After the attack in Charleston, I was looking online to find discussions about the connection between what happened and the Confederate flag we have flying at the State House…And I couldn’t find any,” Borghini states.
As a social justice and human rights activist, she did what she does best and joined a team rallying people together by creating a Facebook page, “Take Down the Flag SC,” which now has over 8,000 likes. Through the page, Borghini was able to promote the online petition against the flag, while also creating an event under the same title. The immediate response was amazing—in less than 24 hours, the event had over 1,500 people pledging to attend.
“I had no idea how this was going to take off,” Borghini explains. “At Saturday’s rally, we had thousands of people around the State House asking in a peaceful, respectful, and hopeful way. That’s what I call democracy, social participation, and community advocacy.”
The grace of the crowd and profound statements of the speakers were a testament to the honest intentions of the movement. There was no violence, and there were no visible counter-protesters, but there was a whole lot of love. “We worked as a team to make this happen,” Borghini adds. “Not only the three of us, but the thousands of people supporting us through the [Facebook] page and our family and friends that pushed us forward and had our backs.”
While many have openly voiced their disagreement with the movement and claim the flag is merely a symbol of “heritage,” Borghini takes a stronger stance on the hot topic.
“Since I came to this country more than five years ago, it was always a shock for me to go downtown and see the Confederate flag flying in front of our state Capitol. Every time a friend or relative came to visit, it was really difficult and shameful to me to explain that to them. I’ve always felt frustrated and impotent about that,” Borghini divulges. “…The flag has been used as a symbol of hate, racial discrimination, and injustice, and it is offensive for many of us that are living and raising our families in South Carolina.”
In a press conference on June 22, 2015, Governor Haley announced her support for the flag’s removal, and gave a July 4 deadline for the decision to be made.
“I am thankful with our Governor for taking a step forward on this. To remove the flag is the first reasonable step in the process of healing a history of segregation, discrimination, injustice, and loss for many human beings. We are identifying with different values—we are not what the flag symbolizes to the majority of people. I really hope our legislators move in the same direction,” Borghini says.
Activism can’t just stop at a rally, though.
“My advice is to love each other and to speak up when we see something that is not right every day,” Borghini advocates. “Racial violence and other types of injustice happen on a daily basis, so let’s not let that happen. If we don’t do it, we cannot expect others to do it for us!”
For information about future events and initiatives regarding the removal of the Confederate flag, be sure to like the Take Down the Flag SC Facebook page.
“It is great we are not being silent anymore,” Borghini affirms. “We are speaking up and taking action towards having a better place to live and raise our families.”