On July 29, O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year-old Black gay man, was murdered in New York City in a hate crime.
Sibley was a professional dancer and integral part of New York City’s ballroom scene. He studied dance at the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts and danced with the House of Du’Mure-Versailles and House of Old Navy. According to Kemar Jewel, a friend of Sibley for more than a decade, he was known in the ballroom community for his voguing, and he volunteered teaching others in the scene how to vogue.
“O’Shae was always dancing in some way, shape or form, everywhere,” Kayden Coleman, a transgender advocate and friend of Sibley, told CNN.
Sibley was approached by a group of men while he was dancing at a Brooklyn gas station with a group of friends while they refueled their car. A man called out and demanded they stop dancing, then the group began to yell at Sibley and his friends, calling them derogatory names and using homophobic slurs against them. An altercation broke out and Sibley was stabbed in the chest. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Seventeen year-old Dmitriy Popov was arrested for second-degree murder as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon after he turned himself in. He pleaded not guilty, according to his attorney.
Sibley was dancing to Beyonce’s newest album, “Renaissance” — an album that celebrates queer Black culture, as noted by Prince Shakur in a commentary for LGBTQ Nation – when he was killed. Beyonce paid tribute to him on her website; the home page read, “Rest in Power O’Shae Sibley.”
“He was never able to reach his full potential,” Lee Soulja Simmons, Executive Director of the NYC Center For Black Pride, said at a press conference about Sibley’s death. “The saddest part about is that we wrestle with his death. We wrestle with hate crimes. We wrestle with people within our community constantly facing discrimination, not just because you’re Black, but because you represent [the] LGBT [community].”
According to a New York Division of Criminal Justice Services report, anti-LGBTQ bias and anti-Black bias accounted for 17.7 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively, of all reported hate crimes in New York. In the wake of the upcoming Atlanta Black Pride weekend, Sibley’s murder serves as a tragic and sobering reminder of the reality for Black queer people.
“For many Black LGBTQ+ people, the possibility of violence is always just around the corner,” Shakur wrote in his commentary. “It can happen during a late-night outing for food, after a slur lobbed from a car, or as a result of this year’s sweep of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation … The violence that led to O’Shae Sibley’s murder was born from efforts to prevent queer people from learning about our histories, defending ourselves, or even existing. This erasure is a continuation of the social, economic, and carceral politics against LGBTQ+ survival. It has led to LGBTQ+ people being sent to jail for defending themselves, like CeCe McDonald, a Black trans woman, who was sentenced to 41 months in jail for defending herself against attackers in 2011. This erasure is structural and personal.”
Otis Pena, who witnessed Sibley’s murder, described Sibley as a “beacon of light for a lot of us in our community that was engulfed with darkness.” His death shook New York’s LGBTQ community. At the gas station where he was killed, many gathered to honor his life by dancing.