In a powerful act of defiance against the legacy of colonialism, entrepreneur Ben Samaroo has changed his name to Karia Samaroo in honor of his grandfather and ancestors who were enslaved. Samaroo, who co-founded WonderFi with renowned Shark Tank luminary Kevin O’Leary and turned it into the largest cryptocurrency firm in Canada, made the decision to change his name after more than a decade of researching his family’s history and grappling with the past.
“Ben is a colonial name. I was named after Big Ben, which is a symbol of Britain’s power over its colonies,” Samaroo revealed in an interview with The Pavlovic Today. “Changing my name is a way of shedding that legacy and honoring my ancestors who suffered under the yoke of slavery.”
His journey to rediscover his heritage began at the tender age of fourteen when he was called a “coolie” by a schoolmate, a derogatory term he had never heard before. Samaro delved deep into his roots and found out that his ancestors had been forced laborers, brutalized by the British to cultivate sugar. Despite the shame and guilt that his family felt, Samaroo persevered and eventually uncovered the heartbreaking fact that his grandfather was born into slavery in Guyana.
This revelation rattled his core and compelled him to take action against the injustices of the past.
In October of 2022, Samaroo made international headlines when he publicly renounced his British citizenship, protesting against the mistreatment of his ancestors and other colonies. On the same day, he was with his parents reminiscing while looking through old family photos. They found the only existing photo of his grandfather, who was alive during the transition from slavery to freedom in the British Caribbean. Samaroo’s father told him stories about his grandfather Karia, but he had few answers because Karia passed away when Samaroo’s dad was 12 years old.
That night, Samaroo had a vivid dream where his grandfather appeared beside him.
“When I woke from the dream, a light bulb went off. I was named after Big Ben – my parents were in London and adored the name Ben – it was in many ways inspired by “Big Ben” – the clock tower built by the British. I always loved my name, but at that moment I finally made the connection between my name and Big Ben, the tower that was constructed to symbolize Britain’s colonial power and strength. At that moment I knew the name was no longer mine. All I could see was my grandfather’s name in big, bold letters: KARIA,” revealed Samaroo.
Ben Samaroo: My Protest Against The British Monarchy
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When the next morning he shared this with his parents, they asked if he knew the meaning of the name Karia. They looked it up and found out that it means “free man.” As he reflected on his own freedom, Samaroo realized that it was meaningless if others were still enslaved in similar systems to those his family had endured. He was moved by Mamie Till’s words that “freedom for everyone, or freedom fails,” and was shocked to learn that over 50 million people are enslaved today, the highest number in human history.
During a trip to Nepal and India, Samaroo met with experts, grassroots workers, non-profits, and survivors of slavery in hopes of learning more about modern slavery and finding solutions. He saw many similarities between the conditions of slavery today and those his ancestors had faced, both stemming from the exploitation of vulnerable populations for profit. Samaroo’s own ancestors were part of a group of millions of South Asians recruited by the British to work on sugar cane plantations, exploited for their low societal standing and desperation.
These tactics are still used today and Samaroo believes that some of the world’s largest corporations are effective slave owners, with a lack of accountability and transparency regarding the exploitation and abuse of this global subclass.
With his new name and renewed purpose, Samaroo is on a mission to fight against modern slavery. For him, this is not just a mission, but a moral imperative – a call to action to effect positive change in the world.
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