03 August 2023

Beyonce pays tribute to dancer stabbed to death after confrontation in New York

03 August 2023

The fatal stabbing of a gay man after a confrontation between a group of friends who were dancing to a Beyonce song and young men who apparently took offence has spurred the Crazy In Love singer herself to post a tribute on her website.

No arrests have been made over Saturday’s stabbing of O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year-old professional dancer, at a Brooklyn petrol station.

Police have released few details on the investigation and have not discussed a motive, but a friend who was there, Otis Pena, said in an emotional Facebook video that Mr Sibley died “because he stood up for his friends”.

Mr Sibley performed with the dance company Philadanco in his native Philadelphia and in New York. He used dance to celebrate his LGBTQ identity in works such as Soft: A Love Letter to Black Queer Men, choreographed by Kemar Jewel.

Mr Sibley took classes with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s Ailey Extension programme, whose director, Lisa Johnson-Willingham, said in a statement, “We are shocked and heartbroken that O’Shae’s life has been taken by senseless violence and extend our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Mr Sibley was at a Mobil station in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighbourhood with friends getting petrol, listening to Beyonce’s Renaissance album “and just having a good time”, Mr Pena said in his video.

News reports have widely described Mr Sibley as having been stabbed while dancing, but security camera video shows a more complex situation.

The video, obtained by several news organisations, shows some of the men in Mr Sibley’s group doing a dance-like strut by their car, shirtless in bathing suits.

A short time later, Mr Sibley walks to the petrol station’s convenience store and starts speaking with a young man, who looks agitated. As they talk, a small crowd gathers.

Mr Sibley’s friends join him and the group argues with the person for about two minutes. Then, both sides walk away. Mr Sibley and his friends go back to their car. Everyone else goes inside the convenience store except for one person who stays outside recording with his phone.

Mr Sibley is about to get into a car when he and a friend freeze, then briskly stride back toward the person with the phone as if he had said something that angered them.

The young man, who looks like he could be in his teens, retreats, walking backward as Mr Sibley advances. A man comes out of the convenience store and steps between them. Then, Mr Sibley lunges around the man at the teen, who leaps backward. Both figures move out of view of the camera.

It is not clear from the video when Mr Sibley is stabbed or who wields the knife. A moment later he walks back into view looking stunned and checking his side.

Mr Sibley was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.

A witness, Summy Ullah, told the Daily News the young men had been harassing Mr Sibley’s group because their behaviour offended them.

“They were saying, ‘Oh, we’re Muslim, so don’t do this in front of me,’” said Mr Ullah, 32.

Mr Ullah added: “Nothing else was going on. They were only dancing.” He said someone asked: “Why are you dancing in your underwear?”

In his video, posted hours after Mr Sibley’s death, Mr Pena choked back tears while recalling the stabbing of the man he called “the salt to my pepper, the peanut butter to my jelly”.

“They murdered him because he was gay,” he said.

A “Justice for O’Shae Sibley” memorial is planned on Friday at the Mobil station, and a vigil is planned on Saturday at Manhattan’s LGBTQ Community Centre. A celebration of life ceremony will take place on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Beyonce’s website now flashes the message “Rest in power O’Shae Sibley.”

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