Since at least high school, Bakari Henderson dreamed of starting his own clothing line. He had the business plan worked out, the branding picked. He traveled last week to Greece’s island of Zakynthos — with its cliffs and pristine waters — for the photo shoot that would help launch it all.
But what was meant to be the beginning of a new phase in his life became the end for the University of Arizona graduate, who was beaten to death outside of a bar in the tourist town of Laganas on Friday, shattering the hopes of everyone who recognized the 22-year-old Austinite’s potential.
“Everything that he did or attacked, he did it with full force,” said Jan Richardson, Henderson’s aunt and the spokeswoman for his grieving parents. “Whether it was playing dominoes or starting a new business venture.”
She added, “He didn’t do anything in a mediocre manner.”
Spain would have been the next stop on his trip, which was part business and part celebration of his recent graduation from college with a degree in business, she said.
Friends, mentors, coaches, classmates and neighbors remembered Henderson as an ambitious and driven young man who could have been anything. He was a standout basketball player in high school, a college student who interned in both the Texas House and Senate at the same time, and a young professional attempting to start his dream business.
“He just stood out,” said Sondra Johnson, whose son grew up with Henderson, through the local chapter of Jack and Jill of America, a service organization for African-American women who mentor black youths. “He was a very determined person.”
House Speaker Joe Straus’ then-Chief of Staff Denise Davis knew Henderson through the organization and was impressed as well. She said she repeatedly nudged him toward law or politics, instead of business, but to no avail. His heart was set on a clothing business.
“He was very driven, definitely very interested in being a success, very smart and very popular,” Davis added. “I always wondered how he managed to be an athlete and be so bright academically.”
His basketball coach at Anderson High School, Leal Anderson, echoed those sentiments in a statement.
“Bakari was a very smart and popular individual,” said Anderson, who now is the athletic director for the Austin school district. “He will be missed greatly by his friends and family.”
Jonathan Liverman, who coached Henderson in his senior year at Hyde Park High School, said Henderson always treated people well and was very personable.
“He was one of the smartest kids I coached; he was brilliant,” Liverman said, adding that he and Henderson still kept in touch a couple of times a year.
The next task for Henderson’s family is to bring him home for burial.
The U.S. State Department does not have funds to help families of U.S. citizens who die abroad bring them home, according to the department’s website.
Those who knew Henderson, though, seem prepared to foot the bill. More than 500 people — including friends, neighbors and former classmates — had contributed more than $39,000 to a GoFundMe page as of Monday afternoon to help cover transportation and funeral expenses.
“The love for this young man overflows and this loss is unbearable for so many of us,” the GoFundMe page reads. “If you knew Bakari you knew he was driven in life. … He was just starting his life, so many dreams and aspirations not yet achieved.”
A second GoFundMe page for possible legal expenses in Greece had raised more than $18,000 by Monday afternoon.
In 2011, the slaying of a British tourist on the island of Zakynthos brought both emotional and financial hardship to the parents of the English teenager, who lost his life during a knife attack, according to the Basingstoke (U.K.) Gazette.
In that incident, 18-year-old Robert Sebbage was fatally stabbed by Stelios Morphis, a taxi driver. Four of his friends were also injured, but they survived.
Sebbage’s parents told the BBC that the years of court cases that followed cost the family thousands of dollars that they would “be working forever to pay for.”
As friends and relatives come to terms with the loss of Henderson, authorities in Greece are still trying to understand what led to the fight that killed him.
The fight broke out early Friday, and surveillance video shows a pack of men beating Henderson even after he was unconscious. He later died at a hospital.
According to the Washington Post, eight people have been arrested in connection with the incident.