Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

Kids Aren't Criminals

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Michael Moss has managed the Red Apple since 1996. He is also an ordained Baptist minister.

Michael Moss

So, obviously, when I started, in '97, I was pretty young. The crew that I had in there, especially the manager team, wasn't very good, and one of the things I'll never forget to this day, like the first day I worked there, we had some white managers that were working for me, and they run to the back room, "'We gotta get up front, we gotta get up front!"

Well, the kids were about to get out of school, and if you’ve ever been at the Red Apple when the middle school or high school gets out, we get flooded with children. All the men would line up in all the aisles and stare at the kids. I was like, "All you guys, go to the back." Because I know that if I was a kid, and you’re going to accuse me, I might as well steal. So, I opened up a bag of candy and I gave every kid that walked by me a piece of candy. Every day for about two weeks, I would stand up there and throw candy at all the kids. All them guys were like, "Why are you giving away all the profits?'" I said "But watch how many kids steal in the next month," and they didn’t catch any kids.

Kids are gonna be kids, so let’s just treat them like kids, and not like criminals, especially young black children. That was the biggest challenge for the first three or four years.You know, just retraining the attitudes - especially with children, young black children - of the people that were working there. You know kids are going to be kids. To this day, you know, my security guy still catches kids stealing. They're gonna be kids. It's not the end of the world. It's just what kids do. You ask any adult, "had you ever taken a piece of candy," and 9 times out of 10, they're like, "Yes, I took a piece of candy," so kids are gonna be kids, but let's just treat them like kids; let's not treat em like criminals.

And so we just changed the mind frame of how we looked at race, children, gender, whatever have you. That was the biggest challenge for the first three or four, and again at 31 years old, I'm this young cat, and a lot of the people who worked for me were older, it was tough. It was tough, but you know, it wasn't worth giving up. I continued just to push, push, push, customer service, customer service, and treat people like people and not like criminals.