Vincentian-born mother of US Fencing Hall of Famer Nzingha Prescod succumbs to leukemia

The late Marva Prescod, registered nurse and attorney.
Photo by Nzingha Prescod

Marva Prescod, the Vincentian-born mother of United States Fencing Hall of Famer Nzingha Prescod, who was a registered nurse and attorney in Brooklyn, succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at Memorial Sloane Kettering in Manhattan on Nov. 16. She was 73. A Celebration of Life for Marva Prescod will take place this Thursday, Nov. 30, at 6:00 p.m., at Prospect Park Picnic House, 40 West Dr., Brooklyn.

East Flatbush, Brooklyn resident Nzingha Prescod – who competed in two Olympic Games and earned four Senior World Championship medals, becoming the first Black American woman to individually medal at the Senior World Championships – told Caribbean Life exclusively on Saturday that her mother, also an East Flatbush resident, was diagnosed with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), a cancer of the blood, in January.

“It quickly progressed in the coming months to AML,” said Nzingha Prescod, whose Olympic wins have since landed her in the USA Fencing Hall of Fame Class of 2024.

Nzingha Prescod – who, since retiring, has founded the nonprofit, The Prescod Institute for Sport, Teamwork and Education, to expand access to quality fencing and educational opportunities for the Black youth community in New York – said that she and her sister, Tekeya, are “devastated” by their mother’s “untimely passing.”

“My mother is the smartest person I know,” Nzingha Prescod said. “To this day, I’ve never met someone who impresses me more with their kindness, determination and wit.

“I will greatly miss her unconditional love and care for us,” she added. “It’s an immense loss, and I will miss her deeply every single day.”

Tekeya Prescod also told Caribbean Life that her mother was her “best friend.”

“Her unconditional love and guidance have molded me, and continue to be the blueprint of how to show up in life,” she said. “Everything good I am is because of her. I will always have her voice in my head steering me, and will carry her light in my heart on my darkest days.

“Words would not suffice to say that her presence is both felt and missed immensely,” Tekeya added. “I loved my mother so dearly. May she rest in eternal peace!”

Both Nzingha and Tekeya said their mother “had so much more life left to live.

“We were a tight knit trio, and she was our world,” they said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better mother. We will miss her more than words can say.

“Her wish for us was to keep close to each other, and we are grateful to her for instilling a strong bond between us,” the sisters added. “We will always carry her spirit with us. We hope to continue to make her proud and honor her legacy.”

Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said their mother was born in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and Grenadines, on Sept. 2, 1950.

They said Marva Prescod was the last child and only daughter of Florence Etaul Prescod, the first female police officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Marva Prescod’s father, Norbert Vincent Andalcio, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, was the superintendent of Electricity, Telephone and Water Commission for the Colonial Development Corporation (CDC) in Grenada, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, responsible for installing electrical lines on the respective islands, Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said.

“The daughter of two talented and distinguished individuals, Marva did not fall far from the tree,” they said, stating that their mother grew up living in various locations around Kingstown.

They said she attended the Kingstown Anglican Primary School as a young girl, and was an active Brownie and later a “loyal” Girl Guide, earning many badges along the way.

“She was an avid reader and got many girlfriends interested in the Nancy Drew series,” Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said. “How she loved a mystery!”

As a child, they said their mother was “always obedient and well-behaved,” but, at the same time, “playful and curious.”

Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod also said their mother enjoyed spending time with her older brothers, “tagging along to play tennis and listen to her brother’s band as they rehearsed.

“Every vacation she and the family would spend time up at Lowman’s (just outside Kingstown) with cousins, where they would plait their aunts’ hair,” they said. “She enjoyed listening to old stories the most during her time with her cousins and aunties.”

Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said Marva Prescod entered the St. Vincent Girls’ High School (GHS), an elite secondary school for girls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in September 1961.

After graduation, she worked at the local Barclay’s Bank, the sisters said, before, at 19, moving to the United Kingdom to begin her education in nursing.

Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said it was quite common for women on the islands to migrate to pursue nursing, and that their mother embarked on this journey with her friend, Monica Huggins.

After three years of training, they said Marva Prescod became a State Registered Nurse in London. At that time, they said Marva Prescod spent “a lot of time” with her brother, Rudy, supporting him and his four sons in their early years.

Wanting to reunite with the rest of her family and in search of other opportunities, Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said their mother migrated to Brooklyn in the mid-1970s, where she continued her nursing education, graduating from Hunter College, City University of New York, as a Registered Nurse.

After working at Brookdale University Hospital and Kings County Hospital for several years, the sisters said their mother “endeavored to broaden her skills and career”, deciding to acquire another professional degree in becoming a lawyer after graduating from New York University School of Law in 1985.

Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said Marva Prescod worked as a public defense attorney for the City of New York and was “a fierce advocate” for her clients during her time in criminal law, before settling into family and juvenile law in the 1990s.

“She was often recognized by her legal peers as a skilled and formidable litigator,” they said.

In the early 1980s, Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod said their mother was “one of the chief foundation sisters” in the formation of the Girls High School (GHS) New York Alumnae Association.

“Having recently completed law school, she formed a committee to draft the bylaws and articles of incorporation,” they said.

In August 1990, Marva Prescod gave birth to her first daughter, Tekeya, having her second daughter, Nzingha, two years later, the sisters said.

“Marva dedicated her life to her daughters, to whom she gave the world,” they said. “More than a mother, Marva had a vision for her daughters, actively engaging them in various extracurriculars and development opportunities.

“Every weekend was filled with sports and activities: karate, dance, chorus, tennis, gymnastics, swimming, softball, and soon fencing,” they added.

Both daughters said they excelled “creatively and athletically” in their respective fields, graduating from Brooklyn College and Columbia University in the 2010s.

Tekeya Prescod said she pursued a career in cosmetology and now runs her own nail salon in Brooklyn.

Through the support of her mother and Tekeya, Nzingha said she became “an historic fencer for Team USA.”

Nzingha also said her mother and sister had/has been active members and leaders of the Prescod Institute for Sport, Teamwork and Education, with Tekeya serving on the Board of Directors.

Nzingha and Tekeya Prescod credited their mother for instilling “the work ethic, discipline and tenacity needed to accomplish these feats.”

“Most notable for Marva was her caring and nurturing nature, and her will to do the right thing,” they said. “She was a strong believer in Black excellence and leadership, and actively supported political leaders mobilizing for the Black community.”

The sisters disclosed that, in the early 2000s, their mother had “the political backing to run for judgeship but declined the offer to focus on her truest commitment: her girls.”

“Marva had a sense of humor that could produce a funny giggle or a full belly laugh, but she also had a serious side that was structured and goal-oriented,” they said, stating that Marva Prescod always encouraged them to follow their passions and was “an exceptionally committed parent who actively supported” them to do their best.

They also said their mother cared for elderly family members without complaint and was “always willing to lend a hand.”

“Marva was truly one of a kind,” said Nzingha and Tekeya Prescod, adding that their mother was “a determined, trailblazing woman, whose light and graceful, giving spirit will never be forgotten.”

They said that though Marva Prescod was “quite a beauty, she was never one to titivate, and always spent her time wisely, intentionally and with action.”

Tekeya and Nzingha Prescod described their mother as “simply the best.”

“We were all blessed for her to grace us with her time on Earth,” they said.