Amplify POC is an effort to create something positive in response to tragic events.
“This all began in May 2020, after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others,” said Amplify POC founder and CEO Tara Vargas Wallace. “The community was reaching out to me, looking for ways to support the Black and brown community. (POC stands for people of color.) “I’ve worked with communities of color in the Cape Cod community for over 23 years. Over the years, I’ve fostered relationships of trust, and so people saw me as a leader. One of the topics that really garnered a lot of interest was supporting local businesses owned by people of color. Of course, as a Puerto Rican woman married to a Black man with three promising Black children, these issues are personal.”
Having gained 501(c)3 non-profit status in July 2021, Amplify POC is “dedicated to amplifying the growth and success of historically excluded communities,” according to its mission statement.
“The word ‘amplify’ to me just sounds very impactful. It sounds strong,” she said. “I intentionally chose that word to elevate communities of color and our message behind why that is so important. Our mission of eradicating the racial wealth gap needs to be amplified. Initially, the goal was to amplify businesses, but it grew from there.”
“We want to eradicate the racial wealth gap by removing barriers created by systemic racism, which I know is huge,” she said. “It’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but that’s the vision.”
Amplify promotes racial equity by providing accessible resources and education that enhance visibility and increase sustainable ownership opportunities for communities of color. Those resources include workshops on Business 101, wealth building and financial empowerment, as well as leadership training and immigration advocacy.
“We’re about to have a series of workshops with the Association of Realtors on how to identify when you’re being discriminated against in the home-buying process and how to advocate for yourself because that’s still happening today,” she said.
In addition to policy and legislative advocacy, Amplify POC hosts vendor events to increase awareness of local businesses owned by people of color on Cape Cod. Amplify is also in the process of launching an equity fund to provide micro grants to businesses and scholarships.
“It’s all about empowering our communities,” said Wallace, who was selected as one of Cape & Plymouth magazine’s 40 Under 40 honorees in 2021.
Her passion for social justice began when she started working at Housing Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit based in Hyannis, where she started at the front desk and, after several promotions, ran the family self-sufficiency program.
“I was 18 and coming out of homelessness. They helped me by giving me a job, and that’s where I started to learn all about a lot of the issues that had impacted my own life, including poverty, food insecurity and homelessness,” she said. “All of these issues are connected, and they’re all impacted by policies and legislation.”
Wallace eventually was asked to join HAC’s board of directors. “That’s when I realized how your voice and your story can really make an impact,” she said.
Through her career in human services, she built relationships with clients and nonprofit leaders across Cape Cod. She points to a handful of senior leaders at HAC as mentors, including Amplify board president Jeanne Morrison.
Other inspirations include author Toni Morrison and activist Angela Davis. “There are just so many badass women that I have read about and followed over the years,” she said with a laugh. She said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s approach of “leading with love” is “really the center of my being.”
Beverley Roberts, who makes wearable art, is a recent addition to the Amplify Board of Directors. Her business, Mijiza Images, got a boost at Christmas markets and other Amplify events.
“Generally, people appreciate the quality of art coming out of Cape Cod, no matter what the color of the artist,” she said. “That’s one of the things that Tara has been showing. ‘Hey, we got this. We have the talent. We have the skill to organize and to create something good.’
“The Amplify events are well-planned and well attended. There are people who come because they want to support Black-owned businesses, and there are people who come because they’re just art lovers.”
Roberts said she also benefited from Amplify POC’s small-business workshops.
“There are other folks that you can talk to who share some of the same difficulties and challenges,” she said. “Knowing that there are other Black businesses going through the same struggle builds camaraderie.”
P.O. Box 284, Hyannis, MA 02601