Ferguson Reimagined: Hands Up United Launches the Roy Clay Sr. Tech Workshop


Back in October, Ferguson youth wanted to organize a boycott of large corporations and use their dollars to invest in local small businesses. But when you do a Google search, we couldn’t find local black-owned businesses. The businesses are out there, there just aren’t websites, no advertisements and there’s no media for these black-owned businesses. So we decided to build a program that would teach young people how to code so that they can go out into the community to build up websites and networks for black-owned businesses and organizations. We believe that technological literacy is key to redesigning 21st century systems, and this initiative is a first step to harnessing technology to enhance the movement.



With the digital fire lit in the middle of T-REX’s co-working space, St. Louis youth, volunteers and tech mentors gathered in front of the orange LED glow to hear Abby Bobé kick off Hands Up United’s Tech Impact workshop series with a story about the transformative power of technology.

As the first member of her Puerto Rican family to go to college, Abby was ready to drop out after failing her first semester. “What do your classmates have that you don’t have?” her mother asked. They had laptops to assist with their assignments, and Abby didn’t. So her mother went door to door in her North Philadelphia neighborhood and raised the money to buy Abby the computer that would change the trajectory of her life. 

By browsing the Web in her dorm room to teach herself, she was able to catch up with her classmates, eventually major in applied statistics and graduate with honors.

Instilled with purpose, students then watched a motivational video message from Roy Clay Sr., a black Silicon Valley pioneer from Ferguson, MO who helped Hewlett-Packard design and build its first computers. Abby and Roy, together with the support of 165 donors from around the country, set an affirmational tone for the 10 hand-selected young people who began their six week journey to learn web coding, business technology and how to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. 


The 10 participants selected in the pilot program each introduced themselves and shared how they will use technology to give back to their community. "I want to use technology to help my community, more importantly I want to learn technology so I can teach my little brother how to do the same," 16-year old Cameron Jacobs from St. Louis, MO shared.

I want to use technology to help my community, more importantly I want to learn technology so I can teach my little brother how to do the same.


Saturday, February 7th marked day one of the program that paired students one on one with tech experts from the St. Louis area, around the country and even the Congo who volunteered their time to help teach the participants HTML in their first eight-hour session.

Once seated in front of their first laptops, donated by ThoughtWorks, students dug into HTML and CSS basics learning the vocabulary for website development, HTML tags, an introduction to web servers and the creation of a single, HTML-only webpage.

After a few head scratches, several aha! moments and even some celebratory dance moves, each and every student successfully published their first HTML page to the world wide web. 

At the end, participants will share their new tech skills by building the technical infrastructure for mission oriented organizations and businesses that serve the community. Participants will be given a $500 stipend and personal laptop after completing the program and building a website for a local small business.



Over 160 community supporters, technologists and activists crowdfunded $10,000 in 10 days to help launch the workshop with hopes of bringing technology to the Ferguson movement.

The goal of the Roy Clay Sr. Workshop is to help build awareness for local black-owned businesses, small firms that invest back into the community, nonprofits, and social movements in the Ferguson / Greater St. Louis Area. 

It’s not everyday you see a crack in the system, but St. Louis youth found one. Now, with Hands Up United’s Tech Impact tools and a self-determined mandate to improve their communities, they are poised to take their revolution from the St. Louis streets to the cloud and back to replace what’s broken.