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A Message of Peace

May 19, 1995

It aspires to be Details for Generation Mex--Rolling Stone for La Raza.

Street Beat has the young Latino market in its sights.

"It's an incredible market that has been untapped," says Pebo Rodriguez, the magazine's general manager. "There's a ton of teen magazines, but there's none for Latino teens."

What was once photocopied and handed out to 1,000 high school kids is now a 50,000-circulation glossy that covers Latino youth culture and is celebrating its third anniversary. The first 20-page issue was written, edited and photographed by founder and editor Marty Beat. Now the monthly magazine, which is now owned by Park Avenue Publishing Inc., is on special display at the 7-Eleven down the block from Beat's El Monte home as well as at newsstands across the country.

Beat hopes his is a 'zine to believe in--a rare place to see glamour, smarts and success in a cinnamon complexion. Street Beat covers club life, music and style with a decidedly Chicano flare. Remember that word Chicano ? It once stood for brown pride. Street Beat has brought it back.

"Latino youths have been suppressed for so long," Beat, 26, says. "A lot of young people don't even believe in themselves."

The magazine also features a high school "Achiever of the Month," romantic announcements called "Heartbeats" and a section of reader artwork titled "Street Art."

"We let the kids say it in their own words," says assistant editor Paige R. Penland, 24. At the same time, she says, "We try and promote keeping the peace."

A main focus of the magazine is the party crew scene, one reason some might see Street Beat as a forum for hoodlums. In a regular feature called "Chicanos and Chicanas of the Month," readers see pictures of high school-based crews of Latino youths, arms folded and eyes agaze.

"From society's point of view, it might look scary," Beat says. "They can't distinguish between a gang and a party crew."

But Street Beat can. In one issue last year, Beat wrote: "Party crews, if you want to be peaceful and down for your Raza [race], then prove it. . . ."

Since a peak in party crew violence in '93, crews seem to have responded to Beat's call for peace (there have been few incidents of party crew violence since '94). "It tells people not to go out and bang," says 18-year-old crew member Chavo Alvarez of Azusa.

"Street Beat doesn't glorify the negative," says former gang member Frank Beltran, 25.

*

Beat (who's birth name is Martin Casado) is a veteran of the party crew scene. He attended El Monte High School and ran with a crew called Radioactive. "We used to roll around in an old VW bus with chrome rims and a stereo bumping," he says.

The magazine was purchased from Beat early on--in '92--by Park Avenue. The company is a rare Latino business empire that publishes several magazines including Lowrider. It also produces music under the Thump label and organizes music tours and car shows. Beat receives a salary as editor and a promised percentage of any future take.

Park Avenue officials say the company will stick with the magazine for at least the next two years, even though it's barely breaking even.

The circulation is strong. Yet advertisers--like the general public--often see the magazine as a forum for gangsters instead of a window to a growing market. "One of the biggest problems is educating people on our market," says Park Avenue co-owner Alberto Lopez.

Beat knows the market. He still walks the streets his magazine covers, whether that takes him to Dallas, Honolulu or even someplace closer to home--Montebello High School. ("The magazine has the kind of message we want to convey to kids," says an assistant principal there.) He still takes pictures, though a lot of the editorial work is now done by his staff of 10.

He's most proud of the increasing peace he finds on the streets and of how Street Beat, he says, has become a unifying force.

"I cross boundaries everywhere," he says.

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