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Blackness, she says, isn't so easily defined by words. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people - many of whom are mixed race - who claim blackness as their identity. Blay's intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens. I am "What's interesting is that for so long, the need to define blackness has originated from people who were not themselves black, and their need to define it stemmed from their need to control it," says Blay. In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.Fair-skinned, blue-eyed Cross was raised in a diverse community.Later, she found herself in situations where she felt shunned by black people.Even light-skinned black people thought she was white. Biany Perez, 31, loves Michael Jackson but she doesn't know the Jackson Five."Those who relate to the term 'black' as a descriptor of color are unlikely to accept me as black," she says. "There's only one race," she says, "and that's the human race." "I am a descendant of a stolen African and Irish and English immigrants. She didn't know that "Good Times" was a television show about a black family struggling to survive in south Chicago.

(CNN, like other news organizations, does not capitalize black or white.) For young Americans, what's black is gray CNN interviewed some of the people who participated in Blay's project to find out how they view themselves.

Black and white California author Kathleen Cross, 50, remembers taking a public bus ride with her father when she was 8.

Her father was noticeably uncomfortable that black kids in the back were acting rowdy.

She doesn't like to check the multiracial box. She wasn't black enough because she was Latina and not Latina enough because she was black.

"The way I look shakes the image of Latina," says Perez, a program manager at a nonprofit in Philadelphia.

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