It feels fitting to dedicate the first blog post on our brand new ‘Together As One’ website to our new name: ‘Together As One.’ I have been talking the change through with people for around three years now and reactions have ranged from profound sadness to “Finally!”
A recap for anyone who has missed the first 24 years of our existence: Together As One was, until 21.09.22, called “Aik Saath.” It means Together As One in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, and we were so-called because we grew out of tensions within our Asian community.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” is probably one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines and I have a lot of sympathy for the sentiment. The idea that it does not really matter what we are called has probably been one of the most effective bulwarks against us building the impetus to change. Do the young people who access our services care what we are called?
Some do, and they have expressed a desire for us to keep the name ‘Aik Saath’ – and we can understand this. But the love they have for this name, is born out of their love for the organisation – not the other way round.
A shared understanding that we needed to change names has been growing for some time and it has been punctuated by moments that consolidated this realisation. A good example of one of these moments took place at Beechwood School. The students in year 8 were taking part in a scheme where their form would choose one local charity. They would research the charity and its cause and deliver a presentation about it. The ‘best presentation’ according to a judge, would win £1,000 for the charity they presented about.
Two classes chose Aik Saath, perhaps because Abdi and I had been in to talk to the students there about our work some weeks previously. I was moved by the young people’s commitment to our cause. They presented with so much conviction and belief about Aik Saath – there was just one problem: they didn’t feel confident pronouncing it. It was a seminal realisation – if the people who are emotionally invested in what we do, who really want to support us, feel self-conscious trying to pronounce our name, we are creating a barrier.
Despite people’s lack of confidence when it came to pronouncing our name, conversely there were other factors which made us want to hold onto it. The adoration our alumni have for it. The fact that it expresses our origins. Its capacity to get us to the top of every alphabetical list. They were all persuasive.
However, other issues have often come to fore. Many people think Aik Saath is the name of an individual – sometimes me! A local radio station thought Aik Saath was the name of a religion – we won’t name who! In short there has been a lot of confusion surround our name – and it brings me to the most significant issue: people still think we are solely for the Asian community. Despite being visibly diverse, both in terms of staff and volunteers and ‘service users,’ we haven’t managed to shake this perception. Too many young people finally get involved towards the end of their teenage years and say, ‘if only I had known it was for everyone.’
In Together As One we found a ready-made replacement. It simultaneously manages to convey both our ethos of working together and our aims – of bringing communities together, divided by prejudice or conflict.
When we finally decided to move away from being called Aik Saath, continuing to use the name became a challenge. It felt like wearing an item of clothing after concluding it no longer suited us. Being “Together As One” will take some getting used to but we are confident it is the right decision and we will wear our new name, with a long history, with pride.