The Nicole Review (TNR), a monthly interview series, brings together leaders from our community and the wider world in conversation about ideas and current events that impact our lives. TNR’s second season begins with three new programs: first with guest Crusita Martinez from Mass Domestic Violence Advocate who chronicles her own story of domestic violence in a new documentary called The Face of a Woman; second with author Don Brown who is currently touring the United States promoting his first book, The Morphine Dream; and third with Kenneth Donnelly, Massachusetts Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

Show 1 – Crusita Martinez

Nicole interviews Martinez about the documentary she has been working on with independent filmmaker Monica Gutierrez. The Face of a Woman is the true story of Martinez and her disfiguring encounter with domestic violence.

Crusita was a teenager with a flawless olive complexion and glossy dark hair living in her native Dominican Republic. She was 18 and in an abusive relationship. When she broke it off, her boyfriend begged her to come back. When she said no, he said, “If you’re not going to be with me, nobody’s going to want you.” Then, on that warm and sunny afternoon, he hurled acid at her.

Much of her face was been burned away by the acid-and-urine mixture. Her chest and arms were also disfigured, though her vision was spared. Relatives who saw Crusita soon afterwards did not recognize her. Doctors weren’t sure she’d survive. Though her third-degree burns were so severe that doctors gave her only nine days to live, she awoke days later from her semi-comatose state and survived. Her life would never be the same.

The hardest part, for Crusita Martinez, of this life-defining struggle to go on with her life was accepting her three-year-old son’s reaction. He called her a “monster” and hid from her.

Colombian-American filmmaker Monica Gutíerrez is hoping that Crusita’s courage and positive attitude following her disfigurement will make her documentary, The Face of a Woman: A True Story of Triumph over Tragedy, one that will inspire other victims to turn their tragedies to triumphs. “There’s more to a woman than just a face,” Gutierrez says. “Society looks at the face, but the spirit of who she truly is lives in the soul. Though Crusita lost her face, she never lost her soul.”
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Show 2 – Author Don L. Brown

Don Brown is a former standout sandlot baseball player, and later a well-regarded defensive tackle on a professional football team in the New England Conference. Don became a laborer after his playing days were over. After suffering a catastrophic injury while working in a factory, he made his way to college at the age of 36. His path began at Mount Wachusset Community College and took him to Amherst College and Harvard Law School. At Harvard Law he was a classmate of both Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama.

Writing, in 1989, his third-year law school thesis—now part of the permanent collection of the Harvard Law School Library—Brown predicted that Barack Obama would become president of the United States. A long-time college professor and noted distance walker, Brown still participates in walking events for charity all around the country.
Author Don Brown is currently touring the United States, speaking at hundreds of venues. His first book, The Morphine Dream, was released in September and tells the story of an incredible journey through a remarkable life from laborer to Amherst College, Harvard Law School, and beyond.

Delusions of grandeur or relentless ambition? “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference,” says Brown who at age 36 had resigned himself to being a ‘complete loser’. A high-school dropout and a failed professional athlete, he was at that time a laborer. When severely injured in an industrial accident, he was told he would never walk again. After his second marriage crumbled and his wife left him, he considered suicide his only remaining option.

Be sure to watch this episode of The Nicole Review.
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Show 3 – Massachusetts State Senator, Kenneth Donnelly

Former Secretary-Treasurer of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, now-State Senator, Ken Donnelly, has spent over 54 years living in and serving the 4th Middlesex district. Born in Cambridge, Ken moved to Arlington at age 7, attended the public schools, and raised a family with Judy, his wife of 42 years.

For 35 years, Ken worked for the town of Lexington as a fire fighter and a lieutenant within the fire department. As a leader, Ken consistently exhibited compassion towards those in need of assistance, made important decisions under pressure, and fostered a team environment in order to attain common goals. Ken has brought the skills he developed as a firefighter to everything he has done in his professional life.

Ken brought his leadership experience to Beacon Hill in 2009, when he was first elected to the State Senate. In the Senate, he played an instrumental role in crafting and passing municipal healthcare reform and the pension reform bill of 2010. He was appointed as the Senate representative to the Pension Commission to study the Massachusetts Pension System in 2009. This was an extension of the work he began as the legislative agent for the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts where he played a key role in crafting the 1987 landmark pension reform which helped curb pension abuse, improve oversight, and increased the accountability of local retirement boards so that future generations would not be burdened with a large unfunded liability.

In addition to his work on municipal health and pension reform, Ken has sponsored and championed the Middle Skills Solutions Act. The act builds on existing resources – such as our community college, voc-tech and workforce development programs – to provide programs and training that prepare workers for employment in high growth and economically targeted industries around the Commonwealth that have middle skill job needs. Middle skill jobs are those that require more than a high school degree but less than a four year baccalaureate.

Because of his work on middle skills, Ken was invited to join the Governor’s working group formed to look at issues around shaping a community college system to advance economic development. The group is composed of various interested parties who have come together to offer the Governor Advice and perspective on the subject. The group met several times and discussed how the objectives of aligning community colleges with the state’s economic development vision can best be realized.

Ken is also the Senate appointee to the National Council of State Legislators Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs. This task force is made up of state legislators who are active sponsors and supporters of legislation in their home states and whose states and districts host military installations. NCSL’s Executive Committee created this task force to better examine issues affecting military-community relations and the well-being and health of veterans. Ken was asked to represent the Senate as an acknowledgement of his work and strong advocacy on behalf of veterans since coming to the State House.

Ken currently serves as the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and the Vice Chairman of Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. As chair of SARO, Ken is a member of the Special Commission on Sheriff’s to study and streamline efficiency of the county sheriffs’ offices. Catch his interview on The Nicole Review.