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By Taylor Barge
"No Bigots, No Racists, No Homophobes," says the sign on the door.
This is Love & Revolution, a small cafe in the heart of the Melville district that provides a safe space for activists, hippies and others from all over Johannesburg to relax, eat healthy food and talk about the hot issues of the day.
On entering, a group of Simmons students is warmly welcomed by store-owner and gender rights activist Ishtar Lakhani.
The menu posted on the wall includes sandwiches, snacks, pastries and smoothies. Most are described as "organic." Many are vegan.
"Without many vegan friendly options for milk in Johannesburg, it is a breath of fresh air to be offered soy," says Crystal Rizzo, a Simmons grad student in South Africa for the first time. She calls her vegan brownie "scrumptious."
Besides offering snacks and coffee, the cafe is a safe space where young people come to express their feelings on issues affecting them. A discussion breaks out among them and the Simmons visitors on human rights in the LBGT community here.
Feisal Desai, 51, a make-up artist, stylist, charity worker and openly gay male, who frequently hangs out at Love & Revolution describes an incident of police brutality during a Gay Pride event in Johannesburg. He says he is saddened by actions against the LBGT community.
"We're following a path for disaster," he says, adding that things must change. But he criticizes his peers for having a "culture of blame." There is constant "pointing of fingers" with very little accountability.
"Legally, we're awesome, but the implementation is lacking," says Lakhani, telling her visitors that it is up to our generation to spark further change in human rights.
Desai says he thinks it's up to everyone. "We've become a bunch of numb souls and we need to shut up and do something," says Desai.