Cross' black father and her white mother never married. 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.
"Those who relate to the term 'black' as a descriptor of color are unlikely to accept me as black," she says. "If they relate to the term 'black' as a descriptor of culture, history and ancestry, they have no difficulty seeing me as black."
At one time in her life, she wished she were darker - she might have even swallowed a pill to give her instant pigment if there were such a thing. She even wrote about being "trapped in the body of a white woman." She didn't want to "represent the oppressor."
She no longer thinks that way.
She doesn't like to check the multiracial box. "It erases everything," she says.
She doesn't like biracial, either. Or mixed. It's not her identity.
"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. That makes me black - and white - in America.
Blackness and culture?
Biany Perez, 31, loves Michael Jackson but she doesn't know the Jackson Five. She didn't know that "Good Times" was a television show about a black family struggling to survive in south Chicago. Nor was she able to pick up certain colloquialisms in the English spoken by the black kids in the Bronx, where she grew up the daughter of Dominican parents.
Some people questioned Perez's blackness because she didn't fit into their definition of black.
She spoke only Spanish at home. She watched Telemundo and listened to Puerto Rican boy band Menudo.
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. "As I started getting older, I felt more comfortable in my skin."
Now, she calls herself Afro-Domincan.
"I think black is a broader definition I also embrace," she says. "Black is more than just saying that I am an African in America. It's political.
"It's about me connecting myself to my ancestors."
For Perez, black is about empowerment.