Margaret Kargbo, a Shining Presence on Atlanta’s Arts Scene, Dead at 36

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Margaret Kargbo.

UPDATE: Margaret Kargbo’s Atlanta memorial service will be tonight, May 27, at 800 East Studios in Inman Park. Doors open at 6:45. Presentation begins at 7pm and will include a jam session. Margaret and Frank Barham will both be remembered. A funeral is planned for Saturday, May 30, at 11am in Jackson, Mississippi. It will be held at Christ the King Parish, 2303 JR Lynch St., Jackson, MS 39209. A rosary reading will take place on Friday at 7pm. Please help her family cover the funeral costs here:

Kirsten Stolle's Only You Can Prevent A Forest on view at Halsey Institute through Dec 10, 2022

A tragic accident has claimed the life of one of Atlanta’s promising young art professionals and community activists, Margaret Kargbo, age 36, as well as disability activist Frank Barham, 60. The two were killed around 4pm on Wednesday, May 20.

Kargbo was working on the Wheel 2 Live project, for which Barham was traveling in his wheelchair 302 miles from Atlanta to Savannah, 30 miles per day, to raise awareness for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kargbo was a passenger in the van escorting Barham on GA Hwy 21, near the Effingham/Screven County line, when a loaded gas tanker tractor-trailer crashed into the van, killing Kargbo and Barham instantly. The driver, 34-year-old Carrie Johnson, was removed from the van before it exploded in flames, and airlifted to the Doctor’s Hospital of Augusta, where she is in critical condition.

ADA activist Paul Barham was also killed on May 20, 2015.
ADA activist Frank Barham was also killed on May 20, 2015, while traveling to Savannah for the Wheel 2 Live charity.

The tanker driver, 46-year-old Kenneth W. Richards of North Augusta, South Carolina, was not injured. The Georgia State Patrol will determine whether to press charges following an investigation.

The group was at times accompanied by a police escort but not at the time of the crash. A local news report says that there were no additional safety lights on the van, only handwritten posters.

Re:Focus a photo exhibition on view at Swan Coach House in Atlanta through October 27

A charity concert that was to be held on Telfair Square in Savannah on Friday has been cancelled.

Kargbo had been documenting the Wheel 2 Live journey on her Facebook and Instagram pages. Her last Facebook post, on May 19, said: “Entering Screven County and Frank is already 19 miles in for the day! Considering we started at noon today, looks like somebody’s got his groove back … Support Frank Barham and the Wheel 2 Live journey. We are seriously going to change lives one wheelchair at a time!”

Known by her friends as Maggie, Kargo was “well known and well loved” in the community, says friend Kimberly Binns (BURNAWAY’s outreach coordinator). “She was all about making the city a better place.”


Kargbo studied marketing at Howard University before moving to Atlanta. She was involved in a number of social programs, and worked with numerous organizations over the years. From 2007 to 2011, she did public relations for the National Black Arts Festival, and was currently the public affairs director of the nonprofit Women Engaged, whose goal is to help women be more involved in the political process. Her Facebook page, now filled with posthumous condolences, also contains many posts by Kargbo addressing and encouraging strong, independent women.

She was the current board chair at C4, which was a fiscal sponsor of the Wheel 2 Live project. “She was involved from the beginning,” says C4 director Jessyca Holland. “She was one of our first Ignite students, then she started volunteering, and was eventually appointed board chair. We just spoke about strategic planning a few days ago.”

Image taken from Kargbo's Facebook page, dated May 19, 2015.
Image taken from Kargbo’s Facebook page, dated May 19, 2015.

She was also a founding member of The Ladies Board, a social and charitable organization that connects women of African descent; a steering committee member for Idea Capital; and a board member of WRFG radio. Among the many organizations she supported was BURNAWAY, where she was one of the first volunteers when the site launched in 2008 and had continued to help out every year, including at our ArtCrush fund-raiser this past March.

According to Binns, “Maggie’s sister, niece and nephew had moved in with her a couple of years ago [following her brother-in-law’s death]. She rearranged her life to accommodate them, finding a house so that they could all live together.”

Oronike Odelye, a close friend (and BURNAWAY board member), tearfully describes Kargbo as “a vibrant, buoyant, happy person who brought her energy, love of life, art and culture to every project she worked on. She had a great passion for life. Even in hard times, you could look to her for a laugh or a smile. She could laugh at herself. She could continually get up, over and over. She had a million projects going at the same time. She knew anybody and everybody.”

Margaret Kargbo and Oronike Odeleye.
Margaret Kargbo and Oronike Odeleye.

Among those everybodies is city council member Kwanza Hall, a strong supporter of the arts, with whom she was often in close consultation.

Kargbo’s family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral costs as well as a celebration page on Facebook.

She will be buried in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. A memorial service is being planned for next week, possibly on Wednesday, which was to have been a Wheel 2 Live welcome home party hosted by Kemi Bennings.

We will post details as soon as they become available.

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