South LA

Renowned NFL player, entrepreneur hopes to change community image

Spencer Paysinger, South L.A. native, says he hopes to change the way people see his neighborhood with “All American.”

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Spencer Paysinger starts his day early. He wakes up in the early hours of the morning to get a workout in before a long stream of phone calls and zoom meetings. Whether the meetings are about the hit-show based on his life, “All American,” streaming in the U.S. on Netflix, or a new business venture, he is eager to have them done by 3 p.m to pick up his kids from school.

Sports were always a prevalent part of Paysinger’s life. In high school, he made the difficult decision of leaving his hometown in order to play football for Beverly Hills High School. He then played for the University of Oregon, and was eventually drafted into the NFL and played for teams like the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins.

But Paysinger spent his adolescence growing up in South Central L.A., a location many people have associated with crime, drugs and violence. He believes that one of the highest priorities in creating a TV show based out of South Central is to portray a more balanced version of life there. Paysinger hopes that through his work, both in the entertainment industry and through other ventures he is involved with, the image of South Central L.A. will be transformed into a more accurate version of the area.

“A lot of people understand South Central from just the movies that they’ve seen, other TV shows that don’t paint it in a proper light or a balanced light,” Paysinger said. “Yes there are drugs, violence, gang activity and whatnot, but there’s also a rich family-oriented community throughout every single block.”

A self-proclaimed superfan of the show, Faith Wolfe, used entertainment as her only source of understanding South Central despite living only an hour away. The show, “All American,” was able to help her modify her preconceived notions of the area.

“I had always perceived South Central L.A. as dangerous and crime-ridden,” Wolfe said. “The show definitely confirmed both of these ideas, but it also offered a look inside what life is truly like for the people that grow up and or live in South Central L.A.”

The community is a large part of Paysinger’s success. It encouraged development while he was growing up, he said, and also instilled a sense of freedom and eagerness to explore that enabled him to succeed in many aspects of his career. His parents were advocates for the idea of learning through failure, which he believes benefits his life today.

“The community in general just allowed us to be kids, [and] my parents always let me mess up,” Paysinger explains. “[They] allowed for exploration of the world to the point where when I got to Oregon, I got to Beverly, when I got to the league it was like ‘Okay, I’m in this space, what else is out there?’”

South L.A. is a sacred piece of childhood and life for thousands of people, but there is worry about the new developments that are slowly beginning to rise in the area.

With the implementation of the SoFi stadium, new sports teams, multiplying office buildings and the soon-to-be Hollywood Park, some residents are worried about the effects their community will face. Paysinger expressed his fear of Inglewood becoming a place that people can visit, while entirely missing the culture of the area because of these new additions.

“A lot of business just won’t be coming from the people that made Inglewood what it was, specifically Black and brown neighborhoods like I remember,” Paysinger said. “I, almost monthly, see the culture of Inglewood be streamlined into business… I just hope the community that made Inglewood Inglewood is involved in the discussions.”

This idea of maintaining the culture and community is clear in “All American,” as well as his other business adventures. Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, a coffee shop, has the mission of preserving their culture while creating something that was believed to be missing from the Inglewood scene. Paysinger’s business partner, Ajay Relan, uses this business as a way to support the members of the community in various ways.

“We wanted to create something that existed in most other developed parts of the city… I had to drive 30 to 45 minutes to go get a good cup of coffee or to meet up for a bite,” Relan said. “We wanted to make an effort to hire people that lived in that community, and to make a space where local creative people,entrepreneurs and organizers could meet up.”

With Paysinger’s worries that the culture of Inglewood will be lost in the development of the city, Relan believes that areas like South L.A. are very rich in creativity, but are under-funded and under-resourced. There is a sense of concern that the credit of ideologies and art that originates in South Central LA is often “repackaged” and then gets redistributed away.

Paysinger’s devotion to being a driving force of upholding the integrity of South Central L.A. is a vital component of what his legacy will be, he said. He hopes this neighborhood will remember him as someone who was able to connect those in the neighborhood he grew up in with exciting opportunities outside South Central.

“A lot of times in our community, we think Hollywood or West Hollywood, or we’re in South Central… you really have to pull people along with you to get into those rooms,” he explained. “If my legacy is that he just made that bridge a little more solidified then I’m completely fine with that being my legacy, [and] demystifying multiple industries to young black and brown kids in this area.”