When it comes to gift giving during the holidays, former FLOTUS Michelle Obama is famous for taking the no-frills, no-fuss route. In the past, she’s been known to dole out utilitarian Christmas presents to her family, such as workout gear and cold, hard cash — that way no one can be disappointed, per Marie Claire. However, Michelle Obama’s 2020 Christmas gift to Barack is much more sentimental, and has a powerful backstory to go along with it.
Former President Obama wrote about Michelle’s heartfelt holiday gift to him in a Dec. 31 Instagram post. "For Christmas, Michelle surprised me with this drawing of the 12th hole at Augusta National by the terrific artist, @ValentinoDixon," he explained. Dixon grew up in Buffalo, New York, with a passion for drawing at a very young age. However, at just 21 years old, he was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. He spent nearly two decades behind bars, where he maintained his innocence and renewed his life-long passion for art. In 2018, students from Georgetown’s Innocence Project uncovered evidence that exonerated Dixon, and after 27 years, he was free.
The United States’ racist prison industrial complex is responsible for the wrongful conviction and incarceration of thousands of Black Americans each year. According to a 2020 report from Pew Research Center, the rate of incarceration in Black communities is nearly six times higher than that of white communities — even though Black Americans only make up 13.4% of the country’s population.
"Today, Valentino travels extensively to share his story and promote the need for criminal justice reform," Obama captioned a photo of himself admiring Dixon’s work. "And thankfully, for me and for so many others, [Dixon] continues to draw. I’m so proud to have one of his works to display," Obama added.
If one thing’s for sure, it’s that Michelle’s thoughtful gift to Obama is definitely going to be hard to top next Christmas.
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