Dancer fatally stabbed in NYC had ties to Philadelphia; police investigate possibility of hate crime

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Wednesday, August 2, 2023
Dancer with ties to Philly fatally stabbed at NYC gas station
The stabbing death of a beloved dancer with ties to Philadelphia is now being investigated as a possible hate crime.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The stabbing death of a beloved dancer with ties to Philadelphia is now being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Police said O'Shae Sibley was stabbed to death over the weekend at a Mobil gas station on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Joan Myers Brown remembers the first time she saw Sibley, when he came to the studio of the Philadelphia Dance Company, also known as Philadanco!, in Powelton.

"He was 14. Busybody! And he just wanted to be a dancer," she said of the young man who came to the dance company she founded.

She never thought she'd receive a phone call like the one she did this weekend, with a friend informing her that Sibley was stabbed to death after dancing with a group of friends at a gas station.

Police are examining whether the incident is a hate crime targeting Sibley and his friends for being gay.

Myers Brown has seen gay Black men in dance face hardship and hate. Sibley attended Philadanco! dance classes on scholarship.

"(He was) coming from North Philly, where the guys teased you for being a dancer, he persevered," said Myers Brown.

"It's not easy for men who want to be dancers, especially our Black men," she added. "Their dads tell them 'play football, play basketball."

Sibley moved to New York City to pursue his dream of dance. Myers Brown says he was studying dance at the famed Ailey School while dancing at various venues as he waited for his big break in the business.

Tragically, Sibley was dancing in some of the last moments of his life. The 28-year-old was with his friend on Saturday night at a gas station in Brooklyn. They were voguing, which involves a rhythmic series of poses inspired by modeling. Friends who were with Sibley say a group of young men started yelling homophobic slurs.

"(They said) we're Muslims and we don't like this in our neighborhood," Myers Brown said of the story that was relayed to her.

Surveillance video shows Sibley walking up to the group that was said to be harassing them. Friends say he was trying to stand up for them.

"I'm sure that night he said 'man, we just dancing,'" Myers Brown said of her former student.

Moments later, there is a confrontation in which Sibley is stabbed. His death is being investigated as a possible hate crime in New York as the Philadelphia District Attorney's office sees a rise in crimes against the LGBTQ+ community.

"We live in a country that has sought to eradicate race and sexuality from our dialogues without eradicating racism and homophobia from our institutions," said Tito Valdes, assistant district attorney at the Philadelphia DA's office. He says the incident also hits him personally.

"As a Black queer person living in this city, it's heartbreaking," Valdes said.

Sibley's death is heartbreaking for his family. His Aunt Tondra Sibley told Action News, "It's a big hole in our family. He was so much to everybody."

Another message honoring Sibley came from one of the biggest stars in the world. Beyoncé posted on her website "Rest in Power O'Shea Sibley." He'd been dancing to her song just before he was killed.

New York Police are looking for a 17-year-old who was seen in the surveillance video in a physical confrontation with Sibley. According to ABC News, the 17-year-old has a history of arrests, but the records are sealed because he is a minor.

Myers Brown hopes her former student's tragic death sheds light on hate crimes focused against gay Black men. At the same time, she's determined to remember Sibley's life and the light he shared.

"We'll keep his picture up and we'll let the other young boys know about him," she said. "And we're going to make sure he's not forgotten. We won't forget him! We can't."

New York police have not made an arrest in the case. Dancers from Philadanco! will perform at Sibley's funeral service, which Myers Brown says will be Tuesday at The Met. Philadanco! has also started a GoFundMe to help his family.