Celebrating Black History Month: God is leading Gibbs family

This photo of Rocky Grove Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Clyde Walter McGaha (right) and his wife, Inez, was printed on the front of a pamphlet in celebration of their seventh anniversary at the church. More than a dozen other churches were invited to the ceremony, held on Oct. 15, 1972. Rev. M.D. West preached the sermon for the ceremony. He is the father of our Black History Month curator, Ruthie Whitman.

God is leading the Gibbs Family, and they don’t mind sharing the news. Gifts He is bestowing upon them include ministry and music and much more--including multi-generational blessings and talents.
Latoya Gibbs shared her family’s story with the Journal Record recently, noting her late grandfather, Pastor Clyde Walter McGaha, pastored the Rocky Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Hamilton for years, supported by his wife, Inez.
Her parents are Anthony and Barbara McGaha, and her other grandparents are Pastor Leroy and Annie Harris.
“I’ve been surrounded by pastors, singers and musicians for most of my life,” she said. “I started singing in church when I was about five years old. The first song I remember singing with my brother was ‘Dr. Jesus Said He’d Make Everything Alright.’”
She said her favorite hymn is “Because He Lives.”
Latoya is a native of Tishomingo, Miss., and attended Belmont High School in Belmont, Miss.
She feels she has been afforded many opportunities in her life, including being able to audition in local events and talent shows in high school.
Eventually, she participated in a major talent show, performing at Amateur Night at the Apollo in New York, N.Y. in 1998.
During her performance, host Steve Harvey said she was “blessed with a magical gift.”
Her cousin, LaDetra White had used her networking skills to ensure Latoya was heard on the major platform. Latoya credits her experience and abilities to God, of course.
“When she was born, God implanted a little mockingbird inside her for all the world to hear,” LaDetra said.

Gospel music
show top 10
Also, in 2009, Latoya auditioned for Sunday Best in Atlanta, Ga., a television gospel music singing competition. She finished as a top 10 finalist.
She noted she was hesitant at first about entering the competition, but a few remarks from one of her friends and co-workers, Denecise Salters, gave her the push she needed.
“She knew my dream at one time was to minister throughout the world,” she said. “Denecise told me if I wouldn’t walk through the doors God opened--to stop praying. I took her advice, and I was glad I did. It was a most treasured and magical experience.”
During the process, she also felt God was leading her through, as she was able to be moved to near the front of the line and bypass other competitors standing in lines wrapping around the Georgia Dome.
At the end of the competition, Latoya was informed she might appear later on the show if one of the finalist was unable to perform, but she still walked away feeling like a winner from the feedback she received.
During her final audition, she sang before Mary Mary and B.B. Winans.
“I remember being inspired as I left their room and hearing their words ring through my head,” she said. “They said, ‘Wow, you don’t look like you should sound like that. You have such a big voice coming from such a small body.’ Although it’s something I have always been told, it was confirmed by these gospel artists.
“Out of all the melodious voices heard in one place, God has made us all unique! God gave every individual a voice to praise him. This is my continuous goal! God gave me this voice to give him glory and tell my story!”

Family has a love
for God and a love for music
Not only were both Latoya’s grandfather’s pastors, she is following in the footsteps of her grandmothers, as she is a pastor’s wife, too.
Her husband, Rev. Derrick Gibbs of Walnut, Miss., is the minister of music at White Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Tupelo.
Latoya is a co-leader of the women’s ministry there. She also serves in the choir and is a Sunday school teacher for the girls’ teenage class.
Latoya provided some background on her husband’s heritage.
“Rev. Derrick Gibbs is the son of Rev. Ronnie and Pauline Gibbs,” she said. “He is the grandson of the late Grady B. and Iola Gibbs. On his maternal side are the late Devoe and Ruby Rainer.”
She and her husband have lived in Saltillo, Miss., for almost 19 years. Besides her singing career, Latoya also works at Renaissant Bank in Tupelo as the human resources representative for Mississippi.
She noted the couple met at a wedding where she’d been asked to sing.
“When I saw him at the wedding, I remembered him from when he was a boy,” she said. “Also, I remember speaking he would be my husband the first time I saw him. We crossed paths early on through our singing and preaching networks.
“When my husband’s uncle came to pastor my church, I knew God was yet leading me. My husband and I began to form a true friendship which led to a marriage of now 23 years.”
Latoya explains both her family, her husband’s family and the family they have made together have always had a love for God and a love for music.
Together, Latoya and Derrick have four lovely children. Braxton Gibbs, their oldest son, is now living in Fayetteville, Ga., where he is pursing a music career. Their daughter, Karmyn Gibbs, is age 18. They also have a set of boy and girl twins, Braylon and Kiersten Gibbs, who are age 15. All three of their teenagers attend Saltillo High School.
She noted her brother, Antonio McGaha, is also pursuing a musical career in Atlanta. He had auditioned along with her for Sunday Best, and was the person responsible for the phone call that moved them inside the dome and up in line.
“Not only are my parents gifted in music, but my brother is also,” she noted. “All my incredible experiences in music contribute to me pushing my oldest son, who goes by ‘melodicb,’ into the music industry.
“But I am sure to remind him, as well as my other children, wherever God takes them to--be sure to point back to Him. Be sure to give Him all the glory!”
Regarding her singing career, Latoya said she mostly sings at church or at local events. She said she stays busy helping to prepare her children for their future endeavors.
She is also pursuing a master’s degree in mental health counseling with a concentration in marriage, couple and family counseling from Walden University of Minneapolis, Minn. She also has a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Blue Mountain College of Blue Mountain, Miss.
“I am very busy,” she noted. “However, I get the strength to keep my active lifestyle through my relationship with God,” she said.
“One of my most favorite scriptures is found in the latter part of Nehemiah 8:10. ‘For the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Another favorite is found in Philippians 4:13. ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’
“I live by these verses consistently. I know with God all things are possible, which has been proven to me time and time again!”

Headline: Image Masters: The most fun I’ve ever had with a camera
Underline: As part of our group shoots, the Image Masters always take a “fun” photo, along with a more-usual-type group shot. Here we are in the spring of 2014 on the front steps of what is now Hamilton City Hall
I love taking photos. I’ve enjoyed photography since I was in my early teens, back in the day when you had to take a roll of film into the drugstore and then wait days for it to be developed.
There was so much joy and anticipation upon opening that pack of freshly developed prints to see how well you did or how you failed miserably. I tried to learn from my photo mistakes and do better the next time.
Years pass. Actually decades. Now we have digital cameras, and you can see the results of your photos instantaneously.
I’ve been a writer and a photographer for a long, long time. I’ve taken what feels like zillions of photos. I’ve taken many for family and friends. I’ve taken photographs at festivals, for official meetings, to go with stories I’ve written, etc. It’s a long list.
But the most fun I’ve ever had with a camera was when we had group photo shoots with the Image Masters Photo Group.
For a few years, our wonderful and lively assortment of photo fans gathered together and learned together. We held photo seminars and brought in excellent instructors, such as our mentor, John Dersham, a world-class photographer (look him up). We had other great teachers, as well.
Usually, we would hold a photo seminar on a Friday night and enjoy a meal together. The next day, we’d go out and practice what we learned.
We would shoot photos for about half a day, traveling to two or three sites. It was amazing to see how different photographers approached the same subject. And it was funny to see the angles, poses and gymnastic stances everyone would get into to get just the right shot.
A couple of weeks later, we’d gather again and display a few of our photographs on a large screen and share them with each other. The “ooohs” and “aaahs” filled the room like you were at a fireworks display.
Our photo reviews were always rewarding and encouraging, and filled with positive feedback. We were always supportive of each other. And we were frequently amazed at the wide assortment of viewpoints of often similar subjects and places.
What I enjoyed the most was taking photos of my fellow photographers taking photos. A few others enjoyed this, too.
We held at least one, sometimes two, seminars and group shoots a year. Maybe one year we had more. We always had a great time together. Along the way, others joined in and fit right in, too.
We are a casual, laid-back, “no-grumpy-pants allowed” bunch, and I can proudly say there was never a harsh word spoken in our group during all the years we spent together.


See complete story in the Journal Record.
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