A local immigrant-rights group is changing its name after encountering seven years of confusion over its original moniker: Hate Free Zone. The group will become OneAmerica, With Justice for All.

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A local immigrant-rights group is changing its name after encountering seven years of confusion over its original moniker: Hate Free Zone.

The group, which was created to combat anti-immigrant sentiment in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, today unveiled its new name and Web site: OneAmerica, With Justice for All.

The change came after months of surveys and interviews with more than 1,500 people, including legislators, community leaders, journalists and the organization’s own members.

Group leaders said the new name better represents what the group stands for.

“What we learned was that while our organization seems to have good qualities like being edgy, the name itself got a bad response,” said communications director Jackie O’Ryan.

“People reacted negatively to the word ‘hate,’ even though that’s what we’re trying to fight.”

Legislators often told group members that it was hard to back decisions from a group with the word hate in the title, O’Ryan said. And callers would fixate on the negative word, sparking confusion on the phone.

Moving toward names that are less polarizing is nothing new for advocacy groups.

In 1916, the group now known as Planned Parenthood was the National Birth Control League, before becoming the American Birth Control League in 1921 and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.

“I think Planned Parenthood is a softer name, it really represents what we’re doing,” said Kristin Glundberg, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Western Washington.

“It’s probably a better name because it tells a story of what we’re about.”

An organization also may change its name to better reflect the times, said Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which is now best known by just its initials — the ACLU.

The national nonprofit organization, which from 1917 to 1920 was known as the National Civil Liberties Bureau, changed its name to include the word “union” in an era of intense organizing and activism among labor unions, she said. And the switch to “American” emphasized that civil liberties were an inherently American value, founded in the Constitution, she said.

Of the new OneAmerica, Taylor said, “It’s not surprising they would change their name to reflect their goals.”

“Although, personally I like Hate Free Zone,” she said. “I do think it’s clever.”

Pramila Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone because of the intolerance she and others felt after the terrorist attacks in 2001.

“When Sept. 11 happened I just thought to myself that everything is going to change for people who look like me,” said Jayapal, the organization’s executive director.

Jayapal, who emigrated from India in 1982 and became a U.S. citizen in 2000, said that in the week after the attacks, she received phone calls from friends who were afraid to leave their homes or send their children to school. Stories of assaults on cab drivers and store owners reached her ears.

“For the next few days, I didn’t want to wear my normal clothes, I didn’t want my son to go out … it was so awful. … I just thought there must be something we could do about this intolerance.”

Jayapal met with U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, and soon thereafter Hate Free Zone was born. At a news conference on Sept. 18, with McDermott at Jayapal’s side, Washington state was declared a hate-free zone — and the name stuck.

Jayapal likes the new name better.

“OneAmerica is really about the vision we have for this country, that we know is whole, that we know is cohesive and united,” she said. “Our old name didn’t really do that.”

Arla Shephard: 206-515-5632 or ashephard@seattletimes.com