Cheryl “Coko” Gamble recently lost her cousin Sheila Laney to lupus, an autoimmune disease around 1.5 million Americans have. Laney left behind two children, which Gamble has decided to take on and raise.
The SWV singer promised Laney she would take care of her kids in the event that something happened to her. She also just celebrated having an empty nest.
“She had lupus, and we feel like she knew that she was sick already and wouldn’t be here much longer because she was getting things in order,” Gamble said. “We were like, ‘Of course, sure, no problem,’ and she was getting paperwork in order and everything. Shortly thereafter, she got really sick and passed away, so here we are today.”
Laney had also contracted COVID-19 shortly before her death. She had two children, a set of twins–a son named DJ and a daughter named Nevea, who are 12.
“It’s family,” Coko said of taking the children in. “I would want somebody to do that for me. [I’m] pretty sure my mom would’ve wanted somebody to do that for her, so when she asked it was like a no-brainer, absolutely. I have the room. We were just that tight. She knew we had her back, and we knew that she had ours, if anything ever happened.”
Coko isn’t parenting alone, as she also has the support of her 76-year-old mother, Lady Tibba Gamble. In January, they moved Niveah and Dj from New York to Virginia, where they’re based, to care for them.
“Nevea is autistic, and DJ, he’s just brilliant,” Coko said. “It’s been very loud. I’m used to it being quiet because my kids are grown. It’s been very active, and we stay busy. Because my mother, myself and Jayye, he’s here, my youngest son. My mom gets up in the morning with them. I do Nevea’s hair, Jayye picks out the clothes. It’s like teamwork.”
The singer adds that she is taking on mothering duties like braiding Nivea’s hair for school despite her long nails and back pain.
Coko has two children, Lil Tracy, 27, and Jalen Clemons, 20, who followed in their mother’s musical footsteps. Coko had Jalen with her ex-husband, producer, and drummer Mike “Big Mike” Clemons.
“It’s challenging,” Coko adds. “But I think we needed this because I was ready to just prepare to take my mother and let’s go off into the sunset. But God had other plans for us.”