In Memory of Graduate Student Trey Joseph Barber

Published: December 6, 2022

A Tribute from the UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese, November 2022

In memory of our dear colleague, student, and friend Trey Joseph Barber, with contributions from Graduate Students Jenny Choi, Isaac Gimenez, Joo Kyeong Kim and Professor and Chair Maarten Van Delden

When we heard the tragic and unexpected news, we were all shocked and saddened. The violence and inequalities Trey often condemned inside and outside the classroom have taken away a loving son, brother, grandson, and uncle while depriving so many others, including us all, of a good friend and promising scholar. 

While we mourn the loss of an individual so passionate about his academic endeavors, we pay tribute and celebrate his short yet very well accomplished time among us. Trey joined the UCLA Department of Spanish & Portuguese in 2020 as the only one of his cohort to study Brazilian Portuguese linguistics under the mentorship of Professor Carlos Quícoli. In his second year at UCLA, Trey served as a Portuguese language instructor, discovering his love for teaching through sharing his interest in everything Brazil – the country, the culture, and the language – with his students. Trey was devoted to Brazilian Studies, taking courses in both Brazilian literature and linguistics to accumulate a breadth of knowledge. Upon finishing his second year, Trey was awarded a Master’s degree in Portuguese linguistics in June 2022. 

Trey has left a lasting impression on the minds of students, professors, and colleagues. In his own quiet and calm manner, he showed great commitment in bringing forward forward Luso-Afro–Brazilian cultures, and particularly the voices of underprivileged communities, through translation and creative practices. In his role as a cultural mediator and a translator, Trey was interested in denouncing the inequalities and poor conditions of people living in the urban peripheries as well as in proposing transnational dialogues about race, gender, and sexuality between the United States and Brazil. Similarly, the manipulation of symbols such as maps and flags in Trey’s visual poems highlighted the shortfall of national discourses when it comes to accounting for the needs of those social groups excluded. 

Trey could seem like an enigma at first, often wearing a lot of black clothing and accessories against which his giant star of David pendant would shine brightly. However, once you would initiate a conversation with him, you would immediately sense his warm, soothing energy. He has acknowledged before that he may not speak often, which derives from his mindful approach to sharing meaningful interactions: “You don’t always have to talk just to talk. If you’re going to say something, say something with meaning. Be thoughtful.” Trey was an artist with words and with language. We are saddened by the loss of such a magnificent person whose presence will always be felt and missed. Trey was a gem as both a student and classmate, always offering a helping hand and support, checking in on others’ well-being, and helping them keep up with coursework. We dearly wish Trey could continue to be with us today.

This is particularly a difficult and painful time for his family members. In extending to them our heartfelt condolences, we wish them courage and strength to bear this irreparable loss.

To view Trey Barber’s Graduate Student Profile, click here


On November 16, 2022, the Department organized a memorial, A Tribute to Trey Joseph Barber, where family, friends, colleagues, and students remembered and celebrated his life and academic career. He will be deeply engrained in the legacy of our Department. We are grateful to Trey’s family members for joining us at the Tribute, particularly Trey’s mother Katherine Luna, who presented Department Chair Maarten Van Delden with a $5,000 scholarship to support undergraduate students who participate in the Brazil Travel Study Program in Summer 2024.