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Portrait of Nigel Wallace, Preemptive Love team member and Generation Peace Experience Coordinator

Gen Z and Millennials: Committed to Living Their Values

“Creating Peacemakers around the World” is an idea our teams take seriously because peacemakers are intrinsic to stopping the spread of violence. When a colleague with six kids was asked why he had so many children, he jokingly replied, “I’m creating more peacemakers.”

What is a peacemaker? How do you become one?

Our friend Nigel has one answer. What drives Nigel’s peacemaking is his love for humanity. Growing up in rural southern West Virginia, Nigel saw little diversity, and his community was not inclusive. His upbringing was founded on monolithic models and programming. “I needed to break that box around my mind and in my heart. All humanity is rich, and no matter how you’ve been programmed, unlearning has to happen to embrace the totality of life.” He is drawn to peacemaking “to know and live what it means to be inclusive to all humanity.”

Nigel is part of the next generation of peacemakers, Gen Z and Millennials committed to living their values. But living your values requires knowing what they are. That is one reason Preemptive Love has developed Generation Peace, a place of partnership for the next generation of peacemakers, which Nigel spearheads. On college campuses and in local communities, Generation Peace helps fledgling peacemakers find solutions for their specific problems through education, equipment, and empowerment. For example, a Generation Peace representative might help a college student plan a fundraiser for a local cause or it might set up a Generation Peace chapter on a college campus to run Preemptive Love’s programming or implement Preemptive Love’s violence-prevention workshops.

Madison, the president of Michigan State University’s (MSU) Generation Peace chapter, became inspired to set up a chapter during the Covid-19 pandemic. Seeing the racial injustice spurring violence across different American cities made her want to be in dialogue with those who think differently from how she thinks in an effort to foster community. “You learn a lot when you are engaged in conversation with an open mind.” She is drawn to peacemaking in her everyday life because she wants to “try to understand those who disagree with me with grace and empathy.” She is interested in why people believe what they do.

Now, Madison spearheads campus dialogues on topics ranging from Blacks disregarded from the US cultural narrative for Black History Month, the importance of mental health upkeep, and telling the stories of overlooked women in history. At the beginning of this year, the Generation Peace chapter at MSU committed itself to support other student organizations which share their values. So far, MSU’s Generation Peace chapter has attended climate change protests, supported Muslim Students Association Group activities, volunteered at a food bank, and written letters to isolated elderly people in hospice care during Covid-19. 

A cornerstone of Generation Peace programming is Speak Your Peace, a bi-monthly speaker series, where Preemptive Love invites influencers to speak with Gen Z and Millennials about their generations’ most pressing issues. Previous Speak Your Peace guests include artist and activist Danielle Coke, speaking on anti-racism; NCAA Division 1 transgender swimmer Schuyler Bailar, speaking in celebration of Pride Month; and Tebin Lucas, founder of The Love & Hope, a non-profit advocating for mental health, and Vjolca Capri, Director of Mental Health Services at Total Wellness Clinic, speaking on mental health and suicide prevention. Next month, Speak Your Peace will feature husband and wife Christian and Elise Garcia, speaking about living one’s values.

Christian, a videographer and photographer, and Elise, a longboard designer and baker, have harnessed the social power of their artistic endeavors to live their own values of sustainability, volunteerism, and charity. Through monetizing their creative pursuits, they have freed up their time, which allows them to volunteer with local farms and donate funds to local projects. Their live Speak Your Peace event in Atlanta will help attendees clarify what they are passionate about, develop ways to get started, gain financial literacy, and ready strategies to combat burnout (nigel.wallace@preemptivelove.org can provided details for interested Atlanta-area residents.) 

“The barrier to entry to the world of entrepreneurship and art is low,” Nigel reports. He has developed this particular Speak Your Peace so attendees will start thinking and acting on the issues for which they feel most passionate. Nigel has. “I want to live a life that appreciates the humanity in other people and also appreciates my own. Preemptive Love’s work epitomizes this.”

Young people such as Nigel and Madison have designed their lives according to their values. They have intentional, hard conversations with people who do not think the way they do, holding space for differing opinions. They take time out of their lives to show up and support others’ justice initiatives that align with their values. They stand with the marginalized and other folks who need allies to stop the spread of violence. While our colleague was joking about having a large family to increase the number of peacemakers, Gen Zers such as Nigel and Madison exemplify how to become peacemakers through the lifestyle choices they make.