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BKLYN Sauce: PISTE Academy

Watch Brooklyn native Nzingha Prescod teach kids discipline, goal orientation and focus through fencing in East New York.
PISTE Fencing Academy in East New York.

At the Prescod Institute for Sport, Teamwork and Education (PISTE), Olympic athlete and Brooklyn native Nzingha Prescod teaches kids discipline, goal orientation, and focus through the martial art of fencing. 

“Fencing is so much more than just the sport,” Prescod told BK Reader. “It's educational opportunities. It's network. It's skill development. It's strong character. It's work ethic.”

The first iteration of PISTE looked a lot different than the academy Prescod has now built in Starrett City in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn.

For one, it was outdoors. In the summer of 2020, Prescod founded “Fencing in The Park” with the support of Sara Taffel and a strong network of volunteers. Eventually, this outdoor summer activity evolved into an academy with various programs, education and training.

Fencing can be costly—the equipment alone can easily set you back hundreds of dollars, not to mention coaching and tournament expenses.

“It becomes exclusionary who can participate unless there are systems, generation after generation, passing the skill on, and also eliminating barriers,” Prescod said. 

PISTE Academy does its part in eliminating these barriers by offering all of its classes and equipment free of charge. 

As a kid growing up in Flatbush, Prescod participated in the Peter Westbrook Foundation, a fencing academy dedicated to exposing black and brown youth to the sport of fencing. Its namesake founder was the first Black American to win an Olympic medal in fencing. 

“I wanted to bring it back to where I grew up and also expose more populations to the sport,” Prescod said. “Growing up, it was a very exclusive sport and still is.”

Prescod is the first Black woman to medal individually at Senior World Championships; she is a Team World Champion, a four-time Senior World Medalist, and a 2024 USA Fencing Hall of Fame Inductee.

Now a two-time Olympian and Pan American Games champion, Prescod is following Westbrook’s lead in her own community. 

Katey St. John

About the Author: Katey St. John

Katey St John is a journalist, documentary filmmaker, activist, and baker whose passions lie where food and sustainability intersect.
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