(Photo Courtesy of Kemar Jewel)
O’Shae Sibley, the 28-year-old professional dancer and choreographer who was stabbed to death last July 29 at a Brooklyn gas station, was laid to rest at Fernwood Cemetery in his hometown of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.
Hundreds of people attended his funeral service at The Met on Tuesday. Friends, family, townspeople, and the queer community gathered at Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House during Sibley’s wake and funeral dubbed “The Grand Finale of O’Shae Leon ‘Sage’ Sibley.”
Tributes and speeches during the service poured. Philadanco! (Philadelphia School of Dance Arts), the dance company where Sibley trained, performed a dance in his memory.
O’Shae Sibley was 14 when he earned a scholarship at Philadanco! He trained with them until he was around 22 or 23, Joan Myers Brown, founder of Philadanco! said.
Philadanco! had since then created a scholarship in Sibley’s name, organizing a dancer’s memorial fund thru GoFundMe. Their statement reads:
Hello, this is PHILADANCO! We are creating a dancers memorial fund for a beloved member of our Philadanco family, Oshae Sibley. This fund will support his family in the future where needed. His life with Philadanco was important to all of us. We want to ensure that he is never forgotten.
A4A Blog readers who wish to help may do so here.
Sibley, who moved to New York from Philadelphia danced with the extension program at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He was preparing to audition for The Lion King this year, it was one of his favorite Broadway musicals, said New York Times.
Mr. Sibley was with four other friends when the incident occurred. Their group was on the way home from a trip to the Jersey Shore when they stopped at the Mobil gas station at 1921 Coney Island Ave.
As they waited for their vehicle to get refueled, Sibley and his friends—who were simply laughing, talking, vogueing, and dancing to Beyoncé’s album Renaissance, which was playing from their car—were confronted by another group of men. The latter yelled homophobic slurs and anti-Black statements at Sibley and his friends, demanding that they stop dancing.
According to the court records obtained by the New York Daily News, the teen suspect allegedly said: “Stop dancing here… we are Muslim. Get that gay s*** out of here.”
The confrontation ended with Sibley being fatally stabbed in the heart. He was specifically stabbed on the left side of his ribcage, “piercing his chest and damaging his heart.”
Police had since then arrested a 17-year-old high school student named Dmitriy Popov in connection with the killing of O’Shae Sibley. Reportedly, the suspect was “arraigned in Brooklyn criminal court on second-degree murder, second-degree murder as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.” He is also being held without bail.
Meanwhile, New York Times reported that the teen’s lawyer Mark Henry Pollard, said of his client during a phone interview: “He’s Christian.” He added, “Somehow, they got it confused, he’s not a Muslim. I could understand if there were other friends that were, but he was the only person arrested.”
Further, New York Times said that a witness named Summy Ullah, a 32-year-old gas station attendant, tried to chase down the attacker, right after Mr. Sibley was stabbed.
Mr. Ullah, an immigrant from Pakistan, was a Muslim himself. “When I saw them dancing, I was laughing too, but I wasn’t making fun of them. Everyone has their own perspective, gay, transgender. We have gay people in our countries as well. You don’t make fun of them. They don’t say anything to you. They aren’t making fun of you.” Read the article in full here.
The murder of Mr. Sibley highlighted vogueing as well as the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes.
A statement released by GLAAD said the stabbing incident follows a “disturbing rise in violence and harassment against LGBTQ+ people across the US.” The LGBTQ+ organization further added, “No one should have to fear for their safety just for being themselves.”
Rest in Power O’Shae Sibley.