Mandii Brown, now settled in the Nashville area, never expected or planned to work in the field of mental health in the Metro area. The new Tennessean is determined to make a positive impact in the community and beyond with the help of her platform ‘Well What Had Happened Was‘ (WWHHW). This journey wasn’t one that happened overnight, but rather a path that life has led her on through her experiences.
Growing up as an Afro-Latina on the South Side of Chicago, life was not easy for Mandii. As the middle child of eleven, Brown and her family experienced numerous traumatic events such as vandalism, robbery of their possessions, and drive-by shootings.
“My parents were married, divorced, married again, and then divorced again. That alone starts the broken foundation that I grew up on. Despite having our own little village, we consistently moved around every 2-3 years around Chicago, adding to the instability of our lives. And when my parents were on bad terms, we began to move further away or have chaotic schedules making it hard to see my father. But nonetheless, he would always show up and follow us.”
Brown admits there was some good in how she grew up, but there was definitely more negative than positive. It was through these experiences, both positive and negative, that she developed a desire to help Black men, beginning with observing her father’s struggles at a young age.”
“I just would observe and how he would move. Right after high school, my father went into the military upon having my older sister, and when he eventually left, he rekindled his relationship with my mother and proceeded to get married. When I got older, I discovered the ins & outs and how toxic it truly was, and narcissistic both my parents could be; especially my father. Despite being a daddy’s girl, he was my initial window into observing the lack of mental health awareness in men, how it can be masked, how it can be neglected, and how there’s some fear behind the awareness. After a while, without unspoken condemnation, men can grow and become stuck in their ways to where it’s too late to change because their methods and mentality have worked for them for so long.”
Observing her father, who is like her best friend and has always been present in her life, sparked Mandii’s interest in mental health. She went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in General Studies from Kishwaukee College in Malta, Illinois, and a Bachelor’s in Education and African-American Studies from Northern Illinois University. After obtaining her teaching certification, Mandii worked as an academic advisor for the alternative charter school system CICS, which served students who were expelled, pregnant, or otherwise unable to attend regular CPS or charter schools. This work provided these students with an opportunity to earn their high school degrees and go on to college, which was particularly fulfilling for Mandii. Later, she became a US/World History teacher and flag football coach at Beethoven Middle School, while attending the University of West Alabama in a hybrid program to receive her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
While Brown enjoyed the work she was doing in Chicago, she felt that the safety concerns and the overall environment of the education system there were not ideal for her. As a result, she made the radical decision to move to Nashville in 2020.
“I was dating my ex at the time, traveling back and forth from Chicago to Nashville and he asked me if I thought about moving to Nashville. Initially, I didn’t want to move to Nashville, but I was not opposed to making the move if that was meant to be. But the more I came, I was at peace coming down here. I knew I needed to move due to needing counseling residency in the south for the upcoming summer for my pre-intern internship for graduation. It was mandatory in my program to be in Alabama.”
Brown moved here for a fresh and loving start, or so she thought. Her happily ever after she thought may have been coming quickly turned into something different.
“In the beginning, I saw certain signs, but that high-infatuation phase kinda overpowered it. Later on in our relationship, I told him how he always had a negative mindset and thrived off being in the victim role and that I could not handle it and wanted to break up. In retaliation, he blocked all his friends and family and went ghost on social media, and disappeared for three and a half days. Some of his friends and I were looking for him and we finally found him and brought him back to the apartment. We found out he was sleeping in his car at a dead end. He was cutting himself, taking pills every day, and drinking and said he was wanting to die because of what I did.”
Their most recent encounter, in November 2022, showed not only the neglect and lack of protection of a black woman but how mental health among men can impact their actions. After being assaulted and verbally degraded in front of multiple people, Mandii was forced to walk what she preached to her clients: get legal help.
Through it all, Brown miraculously completed her Master’s from West Alabama and became a National Certified Counselor. And with the encouragement of her godmother, Lawanna McKissack, she created WWHHW, a safe storytelling site. WWHHW started off with a simple ‘you are not alone and never be silent again’ conversation. At the time, she was physically, mentally, and emotionally isolated due to her previous abusive relationship. She began to finally get the courage to speak up and tell her own stories and truth. And once people started actually listening and becoming more aware of what she was going through, they all demanded the exact same thing; a safe space to voice their pain, hurt, happiness, and more. Strength and resilience unmatched, she vowed to never suffer in silence again.
“We are always told, don’t vent to social media, it won’t do anything for you or your image. And in most situations that is true. But I put myself in others’ shoes and created the website and published a few stories myself. How can I tell others to do it, if I can’t do it myself?”
The name of the site simply came from when you hear someone is about to tell a good, juicy story, usually start it with “well what had happened was”. But for the website, it means so much more than that.
“This last situation was terrible, but I do thank my ex prior to the last traumatic experience for being my lesson in life. What he put me through and how I always showed up, was another window to the neglect of wanting help but what they push upon themselves; especially when they experience failure or unfulfillment in their lives and the reactions that follow. There’s always a discussion amongst our community of seeking professional help outside of venting to our girlfriends or ‘Barbershop Talk’. The best part about WWHHW is not only can you use it as an outlet but you can also use the ‘Mental Health Resource’ tab to help locate services. And when you need further assistance, there is a chat button where you can ask us to help you find a professional in your network/price range and up to the cultural background and credentials you’d like. You can now live freely; no longer suffer in silence, fear, or ignoring signs: just live in your truth.”
‘Well, What Had Happened Was’ is but a fraction of what Brown has going on, as she is a mother, a model, a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated, and building towards an incredible community center project for Black men, but ultimately it all comes down to mental health and making the world better one day a time for her.
Sometimes the sunshine doesn’t hit certain parts of the world but in the darkness, there can come light. And in Mandii’s situation, the light came out of the darkness or the rose grew out of the concrete, only to shine and bring help in Well What Had Happened Was along with other projects she is working on to make the world a better place for her, her daughters and Black men in the world.
To learn more about Mandii and WWHHW please visit her website www.wellwhhw.com.