Brat Magazine

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Brat Magazine was a youth-run zine in the 90's that offered a critical youth perspective on politics and culture. Starting with a 500 copy press run and ending with a distribution of 10,000 copies per issue, it became a nationally prominent political zine. In its later years, staff members became the go-to resource for the local media when seeking youth opinion.

The magazine began in 1995 when 19-year-old Liz Palmer, a journalism student, attended a community meeting at Twice Told Coffee, hosted by the Highlands Business Association and Alderman Tom Owen. The meeting was called in response to Bardstown Road business owners who complained, as a coinciding LEO Weekly article headline suggested, that "youth were ruining the Highlands." Seeking to provide a balance of opinion at the public meeting, Liz spoke against anti-youth policies, suggesting that the city invest in the youth instead and recognize the value of the youth cultural influence in the district.

In the following months, Liz connected with Mike Harpring, Nathan Tobin, Corey Lyons, and other youth in the area and launched the first issue of Brat, a tongue-in-cheek "reclamation" of the word, in 1996. Supported entirely by local advertisers, Brat shifted from a local zine to a national magazine with mail-order distribution and independent bookstore distribution in a dozen states in the midwest and east coast. It was given starred mentions in zine review publications like Factsheet Five.

Coinciding with the rise of Brat was a local and nationwide shift to implement dress codes, city curfews, and skateboarding bans. Brat staff members rallied the youth of the city to these causes through protests and rallies, including hosting a First Amendment Rally in downtown Louisville. The zine attracted more staff members to youth causes and related issues. Other actions included a Fairness Ordinance civil disobedience action that resulted in the arrest of two members who refused to move from Sixth Street outside of City Hall. Among other actions, members participated in public awareness campaigns with Anti-Racist Action Louisville, and took part in a national protest against the World Trade Organization in Washington, D.C. On numerous occasions, local civil rights leader Anne Braden and other members of the Braden Center worked with the group on issues relating to youth, race, gender, and sexism.

As the zine raised its profile, the local and national media took interest. A number of publications wrote about Brat or interviewed its members, including NPR's All Things Considered, Utne Reader, the Courier-Journal, Louisville Magazine, and LEO Weekly. Staff members appeared as guests on future U.S Representative John Yarmuth's local talk show.

Local schools' response to the zine was varied. Students reported to Brat staff members that their schools had banned the publication on the premises, while some local English and journalism teachers invited the staff to speak to their classes.

In reaction to the criticism offered by Brat and others about the skateboard bans, the city government invited Brat members and local skate shop owners to take part in an advisory panel on the proposed skate park in downtown Louisville. The staff also received various grants to collaborate with other organizations, including a Raleigh, North Carolina youth-run radio station, and an activist group in Olympia, Washington. The most notable success was a $150,000 city grant to start a youth center, which would eventually become the Brycc House on Bardstown Road in 1999.

The zine produced its last issue in 2000, with many of the staff members shifting their dedication to the new youth center, continuing their educations, or adopting other causes.

BRAT #3 - a satirical take on teen fashion magazines with the gender-bending staff of Brat. Row L to R - Corey Lyons, Mike Harpring, Harper Jean Tobin, ?. Bottom: Damon Thompson, Ukiah Smith

Members were linked to Anti Racist Action, Bodyhammer, The Brycc House, Highlands Lowlife, Verbivore, and much more.

Staff Members/Contributors: