More than 200 people spent Friday night at a Midwood gas station dancing together in honor of O’Shae Sibley, a Black gay dancer who was stabbed to death at the gas station on July 29 in what officials declare a hate crime.
Sibley and his friends were dancing to Beyoncé when a group approached them, hurling homophobic slurs. The confrontation, which was captured on security camera footage, quickly escalated and Sibley was fatally stabbed in the stomach. The attacker allegedly cited his religious beliefs as the reason for his violence towards Sibley.
The 17-year-old suspect fled the scene but turned himself in on Aug. 4, and has been charged as an adult with second-degree murder as a hate crime, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced.
“Our different beliefs, religions and identities should cause us to celebrate and uplift each other, not fuel hate," said activist Tabytha Gonzalez, who attended the event. “Human rights are not ranked.”
Friday’s vigil, dubbed “Vogue as An Act of Resistance,” was hosted by Black Trans Liberation, an organization that fights homelessness in the transgender community.
“Voguing” is a modern dance style created by the Black and Latin American LGBTQ+ ballroom community featuring spins, dips and catwalking. The style has gone mainstream in recent years, with the success of TV shows like “Pose” and “Legendary,” which put the ballroom community in the spotlight.
But, Friday’s organizers made it clear that the event was not entertainment.
“We did not come here to perform for anyone,” said LGBTQ+ activist Gia Love, who was at the event. “If you did not come here to vogue, you can leave.”
Before the dancing began, activists and those who knew Sibley personally gave speeches.
“O’Shae was like the sweetest person you could ever meet. Anybody that ever encountered him, you couldn’t help but love him,” said Nico Smith, a longtime friend of Sibley. “No one deserves this. Not even bad people deserve this.”
Hate crimes are on the rise in the United States. According to data collected by the FBI, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people were up 70% from 2020 to 2021. A 2022 UCLA study showed that LGBTQ+ people are nine times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than non-LGBTQ+ people.
“It is heartbreaking to bury someone that is only 28,” said Black Trans Liberation Founder Qween Jean. “They do not care what happens to our bodies. They do not care if we have food to eat, if we will make it out of these streets. We can no longer remain quiet.”
After the speeches, the music began. The crowd then spread into the street and parted to create a runway.
There, people danced and cheered to celebrate Sibley’s vibrant life, shouting his name for everyone to hear. After sunset, the crowd marched down Avenue P to the train station, dancing the whole way.
“The world has never been safe for queer and trans Black people. Our mere existence at the intersection of those identities is perceived as a threat in a society that seeks to erase us," said Sean Ebony Coleman, Founder and Executive Director of Destination Tomorrow, an LGBTQ+ rights organization. “It shouldn't take the loss of life to capture the attention of the national media and our allies.”
Sibley’s funeral will be on Aug. 8 at the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia.