After over four years, the family of Bakari Henderson is still looking for justice after the 22-year-old was beaten to death in a racially motivated attack in Greece.
Henderson had traveled to the country after he graduated from college. According to reports, on a night out with friends, an angry mob turned on Bakari at a bar after a white waitress asked him to take a selfie with her. This led to an altercation with a group of men, who then chased Bakari outside of the bar and beat him to death.
A Greek court, in an unusual decision, lowered the charges from intentional homicide, the equivalent of murder. None of the men spent more than a year and half in prison.
Bakari’s parents, Phil and Jill Henderson, still feel like they haven’t received justice. They are preparing for a retrial that commences this month, February 21.
Today, February 10 at 7 am, the parents’ first interview ahead of the retrial is airing on CBS MORNINGS, with co-host and veteran journalist Gayle King.
King first elevated this story in 2017, when Bakari’s parents had given their first interview after their son’s death.
Unlike Gabby Petito or Natalee Holloway, Bakari didn’t become a household name. But, as King told ESSENCE ahead of Thursday’s program, this case “stayed” with her.
“We talk about ‘Say Her Name.‘” I think people should know this name. And we should be up in arms about why four years later, the family still doesn’t have justice when there is video,” King shared.
“Bakari is this Black American citizen. I’m sure they were thinking ‘Mmm. No big deal.’ But this was somebody who’s deeply loved and was a good human being. And that’s why it’s so hurtful to me.”
As King told ESSENCE, the encounter started when someone confronted Bakari and the waitress and asked “why did you take a picture with that Black man.” The man then hit Bakari. Bakari hit him back and ran out. As surveillance footage shows, nine people, mostly Serbian visitors, chased and violently attacked him, killing the young man within 30 seconds.
Jill and Phil Henderson are set to travel to Greece next week for the trial, but they are unsure how long it may last given how Greek court cases are scheduled. Trial dates don’t run consecutively and can be spread out over many days.
“It’s been tough. It’s been a challenge to even work through the trauma, because you still have this retrial lingering over you,” Jill told ESSENCE. “That’s why I’m looking forward to this chapter being closed, and hopefully closed with them having the appropriate charges this time just so that we can breathe and we can all start to really heal. I hope this will give our other two children the space to start taking care of themselves,” Jill said, referring to their 31-year-old son P.J., a firefighter in Houston, and 24-year-old daughter Jory.
Bakari’s aunt Jan Richardson said she was feeling anxious and overwhelmed about the retrial. “It’s been so long, so many false starts,” she shared with ESSENCE.
She also discussed how the family is looking to focus on Bakari’s legacy and positively impact other people through the Bakari Foundation.
“We are trying to help many more families as part of the work that’s being done with the foundation,” which was “founded some of the ideals that Bakari held dear,” she said. They are “focusing on using travel as a tool for healing and regeneration for families who have lost loved ones at the hands of another,” as her nephew was an avid traveler. “Applications are taken each year for families who have experienced that type of traumatic loss, and several families are then selected for an all-expense paid healing retreat.”
The family also launched a financial literacy program at LBJ High School in Austin. “Our research has found that communities that have been impacted by some of that traumatic type of violence don’t thrive,” Richardson said. “Sometimes that’s our minority communities,” and the program would help “give young people tools to understand how they can build a financial base” and help the environments they’re a part of.
The family has consistently worn purple, symbolizing Bakari’s love for Lakers player Kobe Bryant, whose uniform was purple and gold. They gifted Gayle King with a purple bracelet that she has worn in his honor. As King told ESSENCE, “I’m not going to take it off until this family has justice.”