Thursday, June 20, 2024

A pastor. Two nightclub owners. An official in the city’s Department of Public Works.

What they have in common is their positions of honor at tonight’s Unity Dinner, an annual event for Central Square put on each year by the Central Square Business Association.

Those to be honored are the Rev. Dr. LeRoy Attles, pastor of St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, Joseph and Nabil Sater, owners of The Middle East restaurant and nightclub, and Lisa Peterson, the Department of Public Works commissioner.

The event is not just to laud these public figures, association president Carl Barron said yesterday, but to celebrate the square and its sense of community.

“If it was good enough in primitive times to give a feast to celebrate, it is good enough for modern times,” he said, before noting the virtues of Attles, Peterson and the Saters — namely that they are all intensely involved in making the square a better place.

Peterson, for instance, “is very highly regarded and has been very helpful and been willing to sit down at meetings with the community,” Barron said. “She’s very tough but very fair and has cooperated in many ways important to the business community.”

Practical ways, too: Barron cited graffiti and rubbish removal as two key contributions — very basic things, but vital to improving a community.

That’s essentially how the association evolved a dozen years ago from the Central Square Ad Hoc Committee, he said, formed suddenly after he learned of some violence in the square. He gathered business owners and residents together, marched to the City Council and discovered the power of a community working together.

Things still aren’t what they used to be.

Nabil Sater, who has been in Central Square co-running the Middle East for 31 years, said the ultimate goal was to “bring it back to what it used to be in the past. In the ’30s and ’40s, this used to be the hub of the Boston area and Massachusetts.

“Mr. Barron and the Central Square Business Association are doing a lot to get the area back,” he said. “We would like to see it getting better and better for everyone around here.”

The Saters have obviously done their share — bringing entertainment, some of the square’s emblematic ethnic cuisine and large, diverse crowds to the area, where they are likely to spend money at other businesses.

The square is still vibrant enough that the Unity Dinner, as supported by local businesses, can have a distinct let’s-put-on-a-show feel, albeit one that is also distinctly professional.

The event sponsors are Central Square Florist, Forest City Management and sea Consultants Inc.

The food is provided by the Central Square Restaurant Association, which means delights from the 1369 Coffee House, Asgard Irish Pub and Restaurant, Asmara Restaurant, Cinderella’s Restaurant, Dunkin’ Donuts, Harvest Coop, Hi Fi Pizza, India Pavilion, La Groceria, the Middle East itself, Pepper Sky, Picante Mexican Grill, Royal East Restaurant, Sidney’s Grill and Toscanini’s Ice Cream.

Mahesh C. Sharma, the president of Cambridge College, will be keynote speaker.

The dinner, held at 6:30 p.m. at the Christian Life Center, 85 Bishop Allen Drive, is sold out, Barron said, with about 320 people attending.