Texans claim that everything’s bigger in Texas, and that has sparked somewhat of a friendly (or not so friendly) rivalry between Texans and Alaskans over state pride.
This is not the case for 20-year-old UAA journalism major Joey Barranco, the San Antonio-born, former college hooper that fell head over heels for the Anchorage community.
Barranco came to Anchorage in 2015 as part of his mother’s military move. Initially, like most kids who move to Alaska, Barranco had his doubts.
“I can remember crying on the plane coming up here, actually, just thinking like ‘my life is over,’” Barranco said.
However, Barranco was met with a “pleasant surprise” upon learning of Anchorage’s diversity and seeing how welcoming everyone was.
Barranco spent his sophomore and junior years at West High School and his senior year at East High School, and was a point guard at both schools — nabbing all-state honors his senior year.
After graduating high school in 2018, Barranco played basketball at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Washington for a year before returning to Alaska this fall to attend UAA.
“College basketball is a business, and although I could play at that level, it didn’t intrigue me anymore — the business side of it. Just that kind of lifestyle wasn’t for me,” Barranco said.
Barranco’s knack for storytelling laid dormant within him until November of 2018, when he watched a documentary by rapper J. Cole that inspired him to ask his mother for a camera for Christmas that year.
“My family hadn’t even opened any presents yet, and as soon as I opened [my camera] up, I just went outside, and I just started making videos instantly,” Barranco said. “It was kind of like I found myself. Ever since then, making videos has been my passion and how I express myself.”
This August, Barranco began to take up video editing as a hobby, teaching himself the ins and outs of his camera and editing software.
Alongside his friend and former East High teammate Simeon Bearden, Barranco’s new-found passion led him to start the Mary’s Rose Project this August as well— a social media movement named after his mother to give “a voice to creators, entrepreneurs and community leaders in Anchorage” and works to bring “sustainable changes for the city’s youth,” according to Mary’s Rose’s Twitter account.
Despite having only been around since the beginning of this fall, Mary’s Rose has made an immediate impact on social media and local youth, hosting three successful events with large turnouts, thanks to support from Barranco’s social media following. With each event, Barranco released self-edited video coverage on his personal Twitter account, his Instagram and the Mary’s Rose Project’s Twitter account.
The Mary’s Rose Project’s first event was Positive Expressions, an open gym basketball session and teen night held in partnership with the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club on Aug. 23. During the Positive Expressions event, Barranco and the Mary’s Rose team entertained the youth with basketball, music and dancing — all while Barranco filmed and documented the night.
“[Barranco is] just one of those guys where he’s just naturally a good dude. His mom and his family have done a great job of helping him develop and mature into the person that he is,” Demietrius Preston, a mentor to Barranco and former UAA track and field athlete, said. “He’s always had a heart for wanting to impact people.”
Barranco’s next event came in the form of another Positive Expressions night on Sept. 13 — this time with guest speaker Donteh Devoe, a life coach who spoke to attendees about creating and achieving life goals.
Barranco’s most recent event on Oct. 18 was another open gym basketball session titled “Ball for Breast Cancer Awareness” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All proceeds for the event were donated to Providence Hospital’s Cancer Research Program and the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club’s Keystone Club.
Along with community events, Barranco has created mini-documentaries titled “Voices Never Heard,” which highlight various members of the community, such as high school athletes, and their stories of growing up in Anchorage.
“I just wanted to shine a light [on] people [who] just maybe aren’t heard often and people that may be mistaken for being something else. It really just allows me to tell other people’s stories through video,” Barranco said. “[Bearden and I] just want to use our skills to help the community as best we can.”
Alongside Barranco’s video projects, Project Mary’s Rose’s next venture comes in the form of a partnership with Service High School, where Mary’s Rose will help donate clothing to children in need via the proceeds from Service High’s talent show on Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. at the school.
Next January, Barranco and Mary’s Rose embark on their biggest project yet: Wealthy Rose’s Academy. In partnership again with Boys and Girls Club Alaska, the academy will host various workshops every other week on video editing, photography, financial literacy and more.
To stay up to date with Mary’s Rose and upcoming next events, tune in to its Twitter for more information.