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Message of empowerment is shared with area youth

A picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hangs in her studio on Main Street.

"Every day when I look at his piercing eyes, it keeps me on track," said Edith Carter Johnson before tackling the issue of empowerment during an address Saturday to young people in her longtime business, EGO Studios.

On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 15, this local African-American leader says she plans to "keep pushing ahead."

"Dr. King urged us to seek our dream -- not wait for anyone to hand it to us," said Johnson, the creator of a widely acclaimed self-development program.

John Carter, Johnson's father, earned less than $100 a week as a foundry worker while providing for a family that included 14 children.

Johnson said she "honestly thought we were rich."

She said she remembers her father telling her, "It's not how much money you make, sweetheart, it's what you do with what you've got."

Her father was able to buy their home, and if you saw the Carters at a party, "you would never know, unless you knew them personally, that they had 14 children," Johnson said.

Johnson shares some of her parents' West Indies folk wisdom with clients and during events such as the annual Economic Empowerment Conference, sponsored by the Black Capital Network, which draws other national authors and speakers.

While people "may feel the need to earn more money, we need to pay more attention to how we handle the money we have," she said.

Johnson said she picked up many of her values from her mother, Kathleen Carter, a seamstress who "made many of our outfits."

In "Only the Cash Flow Is Low," a Johnson-penned guide dedicated to her parents, the author says, "If I cannot afford to buy what I really like, or find the time to make it, as I love to sew, I will do without it. It was never a question of quantity, but quality that my parents taught us by their example."

She said her father also would tell her, "Beginning is half done."

"As I get wiser and older, I procrastinate less, do much more and end up with plus time to, of course, do something else I had been procrastinating about," said Johnson, who has been honored by the National Conference on Community and Justice.

The Carter children also were taught the value of work.

"You don't know how sweet work is until you don't have it," Johnson said her father would tell her and her siblings.

"He would always tell us that no matter what type of work we find ourselves in that we always give it our best," she said.

These days the buzz spreads across the border.

The Rev. Canon Bill Riesberry of Toronto praises EGO as "an environment which has embraced, affirmed and enriched the lives of thousands in the Buffalo area and beyond, especially the youth."


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