Krystal Ball, entrepreneur and activist is using art to empower women on accepting their sexuality while also helping more communities in Jamaica thrive.
Krystal Ball not only wants to be a living example to all the youths growing up in the ghetto or other bad parts of Jamaica that it’s not a circumstance that defines your future, but your own will and desire, but she is also trying to change the stigma attached to females’ sexuality.
Growing up in the ghetto herself with her parents and twelve siblings, Krystal told the Girls Narrative Project that although she was prone to asthma attacks that would see her as a regular patient at the hospitals, and she was aware of the harsh lifestyle of women who lived in the ghetto, she was and remained an over-achiever who knew there was more to life than what she was seeing.
“In the ghetto you have the females, who sleep around to get money, or you have a little job, but you are not really happy with it. And then you have the men who aren’t doing much, and the woman have to pull the household. I decided that was not going to be my life at all and I created my own little world to get through and I always had my sights on higher things. I was an overachiever. Still am. I go out of my way to make sure things happen – you know? I was very opposed to failure,” she said.
Krystal who was 27 years old at the time of the interview, explained that while she has created a company called ‘Mural of Hope’, which is a social impact service business that seeks to link companies who want to sponsor community activities, among which is to paint a mural, it was not smooth sailing getting to a place where her dreams of art and activism could come together.
At the age of just 17, Krystal and her family had to move when her cousin was killed right infront of her house. She speaks of the experience and how it traumatised her so much that her family had no choice but to seek a new place to live.
“It was very early in the morning; it was about 6:30 am. I remember waking up to a lot of excitement. I remember running out because I hear – let’s say his name was – Andrew got shot, Andrew got shot. Everybody is running outside. I run outside and the first thing I see is – I look outside and people are starting to come out of their homes, I look to the side and he’s at the corner of the house. There is blood everywhere. He’s still alive but you could see the panic in his eyes,” she said.
She said she remembered people were calling for a car to take her cousin to the hospital as they thought an ambulance would not arrive in time; however, there were also people who were reluctant to help because they were averse to getting blood in their car.
“I remember people not wanting to get blood in their car. A lot of people weren’t volunteering and I remember thinking, ‘oh God man, somebody is dying and you’re worried about getting blood on your car?’ Eventually they took him to the hospital and he died in the hospital within minutes of getting there,” she said.
Krystal revealed that this incident left her feeling not only helpless but very scared, and recounted that one night after the attack, she woke up to go to the kitchen and saw a hand reaching inside to unlock the door of her house and come inside.
For a while police were called to watch the house, but the fear and anxiety took such a toll that she was unable to sleep, fearing another life-threatening event and so her parents found a new place to rent.
For the next ten years, Krystal said she was faced with a plethora of other personal challenges that saw her sinking deeper and deeper into depression.
The first came when she got a half scholarship to study in a college in the United States, but due to a lack of funds for the second year, she was forced to drop out and return home, where feeling like a failure, she found herself a job.
However, at the job she was faced with sexual harassment from the assistant manager, a married man, who she said did everything he could to get her into his department and when she rebuffed his advances, which included inappropriate text messages, pictures and kissing attempts, she was demoted.
Never one to run from injustice, Krystal said she pushed back against this blatant attempt to force her to run with her own form of resistance.
“…when I put my foot down, I got demoted and I went down to basically working twice a day every two weeks. Other females picked up what was happening and they came forward and they said yes, this is what he did to them and he trashed their reputation after.
I realised that he was pushing me out so that I would resign, but I decided I’m not going to resign, I’m going to stand up and I’m going to fight and I’m going to make sure that I do well in whatever position I’m put in no matter how low. So that people will realise it’s not because of my incompetence why I got demoted. It was obvious that something else and then people started coming forward and say yeah, they don’t understand why,” she said.
The other event that she said pushed her to her breaking point involved an abusive relationship with a young man who was a ‘nice guy’ and courted her for two years, during her second attempt at going to college.
She said progressively as she started to notice and comment on the things she did not appreciate, he became defensive, possessive and verbally abusive, however it all came to a head when he tried to force himself on her after a party, after finding fault with her choice of attire.
“I thought we had a good time, then when we went back to the car he basically pushed me in the car. When we got to his house his parents had a rule that we had to sleep in separate beds, so he’d be in his room and I’d be in the guest room. I’m in the guest room and he comes in and starts to force himself on me. I said no, and he pins my hand. So I kicked him, and I said if you don’t get off me I’m going to start screaming and I’m going to make a lot of noise and your parents are going to wake up. And I’m going to tell them exactly what you’re doing to me. And that’s how he left the room,” she said.
Krystal explained that they stayed in the relationship for some time after that, as he would apologise, and said he was trying to change, but she realised that it was a ‘ dead case’ when she realised that he thought he was better than her because he came from a prominent family on the island.
Krystal said these events pushed her to her breaking point and spoke candidly to the Girls Narrative Project about what it felt like going through depression and what she did to allow herself to heal and enjoy her life again.
“I remember it was just a constant, oh gosh, just like a heavy cloud of negativity, just constantly in that cloud of negativity. You don’t see anything good at all. Even the things that I enjoyed never made me feel happy. All I wanted to do-, any free time I had, like I go to work, I laugh with people, I’d do the routine, but even then, the fact that I had to pretend was also a burden. I’d I just go home, I’d drink and just go to sleep,” she said.
This continued until she wanted to commit suicide and began to research it, she revealed, but stopped when she had a moment that felt as if she really heard herself and it reminded her that her talents were needed in this world.
This prompted her to seek help from a doctor and a therapist and worked to heal the root of her distress, instead of just remedying the symptoms.
As Krystal worked to overcome these struggles, she learnt to better accept herself and face her insecurities at her own pace and on her own terms. She said she also learnt how to figure out both her weaknesses and strengths as well as how to set boundaries for herself.
Not only is Krystal an entrepreneur, but she also submits sketches on issues that challenge Jamaica to a local newspaper under an alias. Through her work, she wants to empower women and affect social change, where women are allowed to simply exist in a safe space and have real support for the many challenges they are facing.
Speaking on a late friend of hers who showed her what living life to the fullest looked like and who always supported her, she said that resistance has taken a new shape to her.
“If you’re going to fight, you fight with all your might. You fight with all your tools. Which is why before I didn’t use my art form as anything more than a beautification process. But now I’m using it to challenge social issues. Providing help to communities through the form of both beautification and learning,” she said.
Krystal said that people are starting to use their voices to speak their truths and to live as their true selves and that in itself is a form of resistance, especially since the high level of violence in Jamaica is used to intimidate people back into their boxes.
She revealed that in her field the way women are treated by men is ‘disgusting’, with men trying to manipulate women into their beds, through business opportunities or forcing their own conceptions of how women should be. This behaviour is what she is working to change as ‘a woman is whatever a woman decides to be’.
Having gone through many struggles herself, Krystal understands the struggle of female artists in Jamaica in particular, especially as it relates to how hard it is to find jobs, and revealed she started her own network to empower more women to own their worth in all aspects of their lives.
“By building a community and spreading these experiences you better equip females and how they interact with these people in society. I also do it through my art. The majority of the time, like 98% of the time, my subjects are females because I want to inspire women to see that they are beautiful. To show women that there’s nothing wrong with their sexuality. You don’t have to lower your standards, you don’t have to behave in certain ways to attract the attention of a man,” she said.
While Krystal is trying to push more positive images to her audience and creating social projects working with women, she also recognises that nothing can change if the men, who are 50 % of the community do not understand what behaviours are wrong and why.
“We can’t just inform females, we have to educate males. You have to push, and enlighten them, educate them about what women are going through, and how they are playing a part in that. I feel like it’s important to have solidarity between the men and the women or else, a lot of the problems that women are experiencing won’t be solved,” she said.
Krystal said she wants a world where girls can enjoy their childhood without so much stress and women are comfortable and secure in their skin and in their communities, being able to voice their concerns without the very real fear of being attacked or killed.
Author, Writer, Entrepreneur
Ashlee Cox is a multi-genre author and writer. She formerly worked for leading news outlets within the Caribbean, as a journalist, and is currently the lead writer on her blog ‘Ashlee Unscripted’.