From politics to entertainment to sports, there are plenty of personalities to watch as we enter the new year. There are questions to be answered as well. What can Houstonians expect from Mayor Turner? How will HISD fare with the Texas Education Agency? Will Colin Kaepernick ever play in the NFL again? The Defender takes a look at those leading the pack. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner

The mayor tops the list because in his fourth year, his work is far from over. A contentious city issue around Proposition B has left him with having to lay off of personnel and working overtime to fix the fallout from the ordinance which gave firefighters raises. Turner will also host the Black Mayor’s Conference. This is a city election year so he will also be busy running for re-election. His plans for the future include continuing the fight for Hurricane Harvey flood recovery and workforce development.

HISD/TEA

HISD will be closely watched as we wait to see who will take the helm of the embattled district. A nonprofit formed by city of Houston leaders may seek temporary control of up to 15 Houston ISD campuses in neighborhoods with historically low-performing schools. That’s just one of the efforts being done to help HISD stave off state sanctions tied to academic failures at some of those campuses. HISD faces the possibility of forced campus closures or a state takeover by the TEA of the district’s locally elected board of trustees if any one of the district’s four longest-struggling campuses fails to meet state academic standards in 2019. HISD administrators and trustees have shown little appetite for relinquishing control of district schools, though that could change as a February 2019 deadline for submitting partnership plans to the state approaches. HISD – which will continue the search for a permanent superintendent – has spent the past few months making few moves on the private partnership front, despite reports that TEA would prefer to replace HISD’s school board rather than close schools.

Beyoncé

            The Queen Bee is forever hustling. She’s expected to continue surprising us with music, but one of her biggest endeavors will come this summer when she whisks up back to Pride Rock to re-live all of your favorite memories with “The Lion King.” Beyoncé will be voicing Nala, joining other Black cast members: James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, John Kani as Rafiki, Eric Andre as Azizi, Florence Kasumba as Shenzi, Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, J.D. McCrary as Young Simba and Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala. Beyoncé is in talks with Live Nation for the booking of different stadiums for a solo tour in 2019. Currently, Latin America (Brazil and Argentina) is the departure of a world-class tour in 2019. All this while making boss moves, releasing a new album and being mom to three kids. 

Michelle Obama

The world is watching Michelle Obama as she breaks all kinds of records with her best-selling book, “Becoming.” The former first lady is so on fire that she added 21 cities to her book tour and Houston in on that list. The Bayou City will roll out the Red Carpet when she heads to the Toyota Center on March 2.

Key Black members of Congress 

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is on the verge of becoming the most powerful bloc in the U.S. House when Democrats take control this month, with members to lead at least five committees and more than a dozen subcommittees. That could increase the likelihood of conflict with the White House, as Black Democrats have been forceful critics of President Donald Trump. Morethan 50 Black members will be in the House and the chairmen will be among the most powerful, with the ability to issue subpoenas to get information from the Trump administration. They’re already saying they want to probe Trump’s short-lived policy of separating undocumented migrant families and hold hearings and investigate allegations of voter suppression by the GOP, among other areas. 

U.S. Rep. Maxine Watersof California expected to chair the Financial Services Committee. Rep.James E. Clyburn(D-SC) was elected majority whip of the Democratic Caucus, the No. 3 leadership position. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries(D-NY) was elected chair of the Caucus, the number five spot. Rep. Karen Bass(D-CA) was elected the new chair of the CBC. Additionally, Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson(D-TX), Marcia Fudge(D-OH) and Barbara Lee(D-CA) are among the CBC members who will chair or co-chair at least five House committees and more than two dozen House subcommittees. Elijah Cummings will be incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Sheila Jackson Lee(D-TX) and Al Green(D-TX) will continue to have leadership roles. 

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia

TheHouston Democrat cruised to a barrier-breaking victory in the race for Texas’ 29th Congressional District, becoming one of the first Latinas elected to Congress in the state’s 172-year history. The former social worker and lawyer who represented east and north Houston in the Texas Senate is a longtime advocate for Houston’s most vulnerable residents and has humble roots tracing back to rural south Texas.

Colin Kaepernick 

The hopes of Colin Kaepernick making it onto an NFL team are fading, but the former quarterback and activist will soon take a seat rather than a knee. He has a grievance hearing set in February 2019, where he will finally be given the opportunity to explain his side of the story. The 31-year-old hasn’t played for any team since December of 2016. He remains unsigned to this day despite posting decent numbers in five years with the San Francisco 49ers. Last year, Kaepernick was back in the public eye after signing an endorsement deal with Nike.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo 

Hidalgo, a Democreat, defeated longtime incumbent Harris County Judge Ed Emmett during the 2018 midterms elections. The 27-year old immigrated to the U.S. in 2005 after spending her childhood in Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Hidalgo is a Stanford University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is the first in her family to attend a United States college. She said her focus was on working together with the community to be aware due to the inconsistent nature of disasters and she will be charged with overseeing the budget for the most populous county in the state.