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The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

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Even Though Spanto Is Gone, Venice Still Keeps Him Alive

Amy Carranza
Remembering Spanto: Venice students, teachers, and staff got together to make a memorial for Spanto on June 30.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

It’s been a month since Born X Raised’s Chris “Spanto” Printup died on June 28—just three days after he was in a major car accident—and still, the grief feels new.

Prior to his success, Spanto was just another homie down the block. He attended public school, Venice High, in fact. He had his gang of friends, and grew up in his troubled life until he changed it for the better.

For the most part, it makes someone wonder why this sort of tragedy happened all too quickly, especially those who are grieving in Venice.

Whether it’s used to make a clothing capsule to honor him, displayed in a mural to honor his memory, or shown in a small yet meaningful memorial in front of his high school campus, Spanto’s death is still a freshly-open wound on the heart of Los Angeles, particularly in the Venice neighborhood.

Solemn yet sweet words were written and spoken during the memorial. Pictures of Spanto were posted on the Venice High sign up front.

Bouquets of flowers were also left there on the pavement, along with a candle, a dark blue bandana, and a light blue Born X Raised Los Angeles Lakers cap. 

The most notable part about the event were the people wearing his merchandise with pride, almost all of which were Venice students, including alumni and current staff. 

All of this is to say that where there is grief, there is also an opportunity to seek out others, to be vulnerable alongside a community, and a chance to reflect on just how much someone has impacted one’s life.

Although she saw Spanto as the success story Los Angeles knows now, Lorena Santos, the Title 1 and Title 3 coordinator at Venice High and a ‘Class of 2002’ alumni, also knew of him as the kid who hit rock bottom during her childhood.

“Growing up in this neighborhood in the 1990s, Spanto was a name we all knew then,” Santos said.

However, it wasn’t for a good reason, as Spanto’s reputation consisted of “kicking it, drinking 40s, chasing girls and making money,” according to the Los Angeles Times.  

Furthermore, Spanto spent his youth selling drugs, being sent in and out of juvenile detention, which ultimately led to prison.

“He dealt with issues that no young person should have to,” Santos said.

Despite being incarcerated at the time though, Spanto knew he needed to turn his life around, and that’s when he had the idea of starting a brand—something to preserve the remnants of old Venice and his family’s heritage against gentrification.

“I didn’t want to become a statistic, like the little poor family who couldn’t make it, got ran out, and now they either live in Arizona or Moreno Valley, so I was like, ‘I’m going to try and figure it out,’” Spanto said in an episode of mens’ streetwear podcast Throwing Fits. “It was a joke, but it worked.”

But, just when Born X Raised was beginning to launch in 2013, Spanto was diagnosed with terminal T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and the cost left him in detrimental financial conditions by 2017.

However, with the help of business partner Alex Erdmann, otherwise known as 2Tone, Born X Raised stayed in the game. More importantly, by 2018, Spanto was cancer-free.

By then, he’d go on to collaborate with the Dodgers, the Rams, and more recently, he created a collection with Levi’s in honor of his father who died earlier this year.

No matter how big the brand’s projects got though, the inspiration behind Born X Raised was fueled by Spanto’s mission to highlight what once was.

“I remember early work of Born X Raised where they boldly claimed that gentrification is genocide, and while for some it may be a stretch, for those of us living in this neighborhood, it feels very real,” Santos said.

“Families like mine have been displaced from the only place they call home, the neighborhood that may not have always felt safe, but it was ours.”

By giving a voice to these sentiments, Santos said, Spanto made something out of nothing. 

“So many times, young people get boxed into these categories and labeled as not being worth it or maybe not being good enough, but he was living proof that we can’t continue to do that to young people,” she said.

“If I could describe him in one word, it would be human.”

“Spanto beat cancer, other near-death experiences, and it seems as though he came out of each one of those experiences more empowered to revolutionize the fashion world, our community, and himself,” Santos said.

History teacher Alejandro Arroyo is an example of this ‘revolutionary empowerment’.

Not only is he a teacher at Venice High, but he is also an alumni and an advocate for his community, just like Spanto was. 

“Our stories are really similar,” Arroyo said. “We both have several generations of family that came here, and we’re both from the same kind of neighborhood, even though I’m from Culver City, he’s from Venice.

“So, for me, it was really great to see someone almost exactly like me, still proud of where he came from, still going back to where he came from.”

However, it wasn’t until Arroyo’s brother showed him a YouTube video of Spanto talking about gentrification in Venice that Arroyo began his research on Born X Raised.

Since then, Arroyo expressed interest in collaborating with Spanto for M.E.Ch.A. de Venice.

“I knew the kids on campus loved his clothing brand—I love the clothing brand, so when he found out that we were open to working with them, he DMed me on Instagram and we set something up,” Arroyo said.

That something was the design for the M.E.Ch.A. shirts of the 2021-2022 school year, which ultimately led to the idea of giving a gift to the entirety of Venice High School.

“Spanto said, ‘I want to do something for the whole school,’ so that’s when he started talking about the shoes he had coming out with Nike,” Arroyo said.

“He was like, ‘I want to give every graduating senior pair of shoes,’ and we got to work on that.”

23′ seniors Jennifer Lopez and Cristian Curiel sport their Born X Raised merchandise. (Amy Carranza)

Cristian Curiel is just one of the many graduates that received Spanto’s present, and according to him, it was a surreal experience.

“I remember shaking when I was approaching him, and I felt so welcomed,” he said.

“Spanto was just like, ‘Oh, what’s up, man,’ and it was just like meeting another homie essentially to him, but to me, it was everything.”

Due to his brother’s interest in Born X Raised, Curiel had been following Spanto’s work since 2019, and as his fascination with the brand grew, he began to see its history within himself.

“My parents came to Venice in the late 1990s, and ever since then, we’ve never moved,” Curiel said.

“My older brother went to Venice High as well as my sister, and it’s just a privilege to come here, especially knowing that Spanto was just such a part of this.”

According to Curiel, people would think, “Oh, it’s just a brand. Why do you care so much about it?” But at its core, Born X Raised is about representation, as well as being able to say that you’re from Venice, just like his idol was. 

The past tense: was. It’s reminder of what could have been, a cause for grief, and for Santos, it saddens her to not know what could have been of Chris. 

“Born X Raised was on the brink of something big—we all could feel that, but I have hope for what his passing can mean to our young kids,” she said.

“He wasn’t always perfect and made huge mistakes in his early years, but he redeemed himself. He understood that he needed to change his ways and used his genius for a good cause.”

For Arroyo, he mentioned that Spanto was looking forward to continuing his work at Venice High.

“He wanted to get into helping the sports team with their gear, do the senior sweaters for the seniors, and I know that he would have kept coming back and helping us out with whatever we wanted,” Arroyo said.

“He was a warrior.”

“Spanto always fought for what he loved, whether it was his community, his family, his beliefs—he was always someone in the circle, which means that he was always firm and defended what he loved,” he said.

However, for Curiel, and so many others, Spanto is still well and alive through his legacy and those whom he inspired.

“I feel like Spanto really went above and beyond to be able to express who we are, so just have those memories of him, and cherish those clothing items that you’ve acquired all throughout those years,” he said.

“We all need to be able to remember who he was, keep the brand alive, and not only that, but remember where we come from, especially if you’re from Venice.”

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