While on a recent flight, Latisha Johnson heard two men in her aisle speaking a foreign language. Anyone in her position might have begun to judge, but because she took a vow of respect and non-judgment, she was put at ease and went about her trip.
Johnson, an African-American resident of Fishers and mom of two, wanted to do something to impact her community in a positive way while also honoring her late husband’s legacy.
I Vow is her response to issues nationally and locally that she believes wouldn’t have taken place had people come together to respect each other and discourage discrimination.
“[RFRA and Black Lives Matter] are happening and we’re all here and we have to take a vow to not discriminate” says Johnson.
She wants people to be aware that this is more than just a promise – the idea of a vow holds more weight.
“I didn’t want it to be a promise,” says Johnson. “When you take a vow you make a lifetime commitment – you think of a wedding. There’s more power behind it because we wanted to make a lasting lifetime impact. We wanted a lifetime name to let people know this something serious and something to carry for a lifetime.
When you take a vow it’s at the front of your head and when things come up you remember the vows you took.”
Johnson and her late husband moved to Hamilton County five years ago seeking a place to settle down after having moved every two years. They decided to stay until their children graduated high school so they would have a place to call home. After Johnson’s husband died, she decided to stay in Fishers and raise their children as they had planned. The movement was originally conceptualized as a way to honor her husband after he passed.
“Everything I thought of — a run, a scholarship — nothing inspired me. Then I thought back to the day he died. Our last conversation was about diversity,” says Johnson. “He said, ‘There’s no education behind diversity and its hard to accept each other if we don’t understand each other.’ He was proactive in talking with leaders and what we talked about, maybe six hours before he passed, is that he would want people to be educated and if we could educate them.”
Johnson describes I Vow as a two-part passion. Not only is it the work of not her late husband, but also the work of her daughter, Nailah.
“This passion was also in my daughter. Hers is more emotional,” said Johnson.
Nailah took up the cause under her own school club,, Do Something, that is separate from I Vow. And the community has been nothing but supportive.
“The neighbors have been great,” says Johnson. “We had yard signs made when we were first getting ready to launch. We asked them if we could put them in their yards they said yes and they’re still there to this day.”
Even though her local community has been great, the online community is a little more presumptuous and has asked Johnson to declare religious or political affiliations, but she insists that “I Vow” is nothing of the sort.
“We have had people who ask political and religious questions but its not [about that], it’s just morally correct,” says Johnson. “So if your view, whether political or religious, is against treating people with respect you may need to do some reevaluating.”
And this refusal to take sides has helped the movement.
“There hasn’t been any backlash because what we’re saying is this is more about respect. We’re not asking anyone to change what they believe.”
If you go onto their Facebook page, you’ll see the hashtag “love hate.” Johnson explains that sometimes there is a thin line between love and hate and that sometimes people cross that line by accident.
“My belief is that you don’t have to change what you believe to treat people kindly you shouldn’t love your belief so much that it causes you to hate,” says Johnson.
I Vow officially launched for about a month and a half ago. The staff is small
mostly friends and family — but Johnson is looking to expand in a new project to make the vow personal to everyone who takes it.
“ You have to say, ‘I Vow to love me’ because we know not everyone is going to take the pledge,” says Johnson. “But for those who choose to treat you a certain way you can say, ‘even if this person chooses to treat me a certain way I choose to love me.’”
This expansion is not the end for I Vow. Johnson also hopes to one day be a liaison that puts schools in touch with diversity trainers to start up diversity programs and provide resources.
“I definitely want to impact our state and city but the goal is to one day transform the heart of our country through education and taking on respect, responsibility, and support.” says Johnson.
To learn more about The I Vow Movement you can visit the official Facebook page.