Mourners Pay Tribute to O’Shae Sibley at the Scene of His Murder

Hundreds of mourners gathered on Friday at the Brooklyn gas station where O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year-old dancer and choreographer, was fatally stabbed last weekend after a dispute over his vogueing in its parking lot.

They chanted Mr. Sibley’s name while carrying Pride flags and posters that read “Vogueing is resistance.” At the foot of the gas station sign, some of them left shrines made up of lit candles, flowers and photographs of Mr. Sibley dancing.

As evening fell, L.G.B.T.Q. activists and dancers took the megaphone to pay tribute to Mr. Sibley, who was gay and Black and whose murder has been charged as a hate crime.

Neko Old Navy, a ballroom dancer, recalled Mr. Sibley’s entry into the ballroom scene when he was a youngster in Philadelphia. Gia Love, a model and transgender activist, said of vogueing: “It’s how a lot of us have found ourselves. It’s how a lot of us have affirmed ourselves when the world has not accepted us.”

Flowers and signs were placed on the street to pay tribute to O’Shae Sibley.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
A protester climbed atop a pedestrian traffic light while holding a Pride flag.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

Qween Jean, the founder of the advocacy group Black Trans Liberation, said: “Vogueing is not a crime. So today we will vogue in honor of O’Shae.”

In the moments before his death, Mr. Sibley and four friends stopped at the Mobil station on Coney Island Avenue after a day at the beach. They were vogueing to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album when they were confronted by a group of young men who told them to stop dancing and hurled gay and racist slurs. One of them pulled a knife and stabbed Mr. Sibley. His apparent attacker, a 17-year-old Brooklyn resident whose name has not been revealed, turned himself in to the authorities on Friday. He was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

Vogueing, an exuberant dance style that makes use of fashion models’ runway poses, emerged in the Black and Latino queer underground ballroom scene of the 1980s. Mr. Sibley, a Philadelphia native who moved to New York a few years ago with aspirations of pursuing a dance career, found a community in the city’s contemporary ballroom circuit.

The memorial gathering for O’Shae Sibley in Brooklyn on Friday gave one participant “some sense of empowerment over what happened,” he said.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

Friends at the vigil said that he was associated with ballroom families including the House of Old Navy and the House of D’Mure-Versailles, and that he could reliably be found vogueing along Pier 46 in Manhattan and at clubs like 3 Dollar Bill in East Williamsburg, where he was a daunting adversary. He had recently started preparing to audition for a part in “The Lion King.”

Mr. Sibley’s death has unnerved and energized the city’s gay community. Memorials have been held for him at the Stonewall Inn and at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village.

At the gas station on Friday night, mourners turned their grief intoan act ofempowerment as they vogued through the streets in Mr. Sibley’s name.

The sky had darkened and a light rain had begun to fall when someone cried out: “Pump the beat!”

Renanzo Williams danced at the gathering in Brooklyn on Friday.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
Another participant showed off his moves in honor of O’Shae Sibley.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

A speaker blasted Beyoncé’s “Pure/Honey,” and an impromptu runway formed within the crowd. Men in muscle shirts strutted down the path with hard stares. Others struck poses and dipped to dance along the ground. Wearing crimson gloves and red platform heels, the drag performer Kevin Aviance entered the fray, vogueing ferociously to applause.

One of the dancers was Otis Pena, a close friend of Mr. Sibley who was present during the stabbing. Mr. Pena helped stanch Mr. Sibley’s bleeding before he was taken to Maimonides Medical Center. Beaded with sweat, he wore red track pants as people danced nearby.

“Pioneers and icons of ballroom have come out to pay their respects to O’Shae tonight, and that’s beautiful,” Mr. Pena said. “Vogueing is the dance of our people. It’s a dance of rebellion created by us and for us.”

A mourner holds a sign in honor of O’Shae Sibley.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
The transgender activist Gia Love walked through rose petals scattered near the gas station where O’Shae Sibley was killed.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

“When you walk a ball, there’s a special moment you know everyone is looking at you,” he continued. “Ever since what happened, tonight is the first time I’ve felt a little joyful — and O’Shae would have wanted that.”

The procession made its way through the Midwood neighborhood, with participants vogueing past a kebab restaurant and a yeshiva. When it came to a halt outside an entrance to a Kings Highway subway station, the dancing hit a fever pitch.

One dancer stopped traffic to vogue between a bus and an ice cream truck. Others threw down their hardest moves while a circle of mourners chanted Mr. Sibley’s name one last time. Someone carried a tray of burning sage through the crowd as police officers monitored the scene.

Moments later, the mourners dispersed.

Kristian Miranda, who goes by Krissy Versace on the ballroom circuit, wiped away tears.

“I felt the loss of my friend tonight,” he said. “But vogueing out here like this with everyone, I also finally felt some sense of empowerment over what happened. I vogued proudly in the name of O’Shae.”

Protesters gathered inside a subway station.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
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