AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Austin hair stylist Greg’ry Baladez first saw “Black Panther” in theaters four years ago, he said he was struck by seeing himself and his culture represented on the big screen and wanted the same for local children. Now he’s bringing that years-old dream to life, partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area to host a free screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” Sunday evening.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2018 film “Black Panther.” In the 2018 film, the late actor Chadwick Boseman portrayed T’Challa as he returned to his native nation of Wakanda to assume the position of king. This latest installment follows in the wake of Boseman’s death from colon cancer in August 2020.

Baladez rented out the theater for a private screening Sunday, paying for 50 kids to see the film who otherwise might not have been able to afford to see the movie. He and several of his friends have created a Wakandan purple flag that will greet children as they come in, with custom souvenir bracelets, popcorns and soda, names printed on the “reserved” seats and trivia before the screening.

“They’ll get to really experience the VIP treatment,” he said, adding: “They’ll get to see the beautiful film and then afterwards, kind of touch base with a few of them, see what they thought and hopefully leave them with a great memory for tonight.”

When he first saw the original film, it had come shortly after Baladez had taken an ancestry test and found out he was 50% West African. Seeing African cultures celebrated through a massive platform, he said this was an opportunity for young kids to more closely identify with the characters and see themselves as strong and powerful, just like these superheroes.

“We move through the world day to day, life just happens and so, for them to be able to see something so beautiful, something so magnificent, something so powerful — these kids, I hope in their own two shoes are able to see I can also be that powerful.”

While Baladez said significant diversity improvements are still needed in Hollywood, he said recent productions from Marvel Studios have helped breathe to life new storylines that touch on various cultures and identities. Details like a same-sex kiss in Marvel’s “Eternals” or seeing culturally authentic hairstyles, cultural traditions and costume designs in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” help to validate those identities and lived experiences, he said.

“It really puts a place of like, ‘I belong here and I’m just as valid as the next person standing next to me,'” Baladez said.

When connecting with the Boys and Girls Club of Austin for this screening, Baladez said he wanted to reach audiences who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see the film. However, he added it was also important to him to try and reach kids who could benefit from seeing themselves reflected back at them.

“I think something about ‘Black Panther’ specifically is I think it’s transcended the [Marvel Cinematic Universe] or the Marvel sort of world,” he said. “I think that it’s become a much more important cultural piece.”