OAKLAND — Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists from all over the country will gather in Oakland today and throughout the weekend to address social justice and racial equality issues affecting the gay and lesbian community.

The 2005 Creating Change Conference, presented by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, begins at 9 a.m. today at the Oakland Marriott City Center on Broadway and 10th Street in downtown Oakland.

"This is our annual meeting of activists and leaders in the lesbian and gay community, and we always time it with very close proximity to the elections, laying out a blueprint for the coming election year and building political power from the ground up," said Roberta Sklar, director of communications for the task force.

Sklar said Oakland was chosen for this year's event, which is expected to draw about 2,500 people, because "there's a community here that needs to be lifted up, recognized and participated with."

"We will have people coming from San Francisco, of course," she said. "But the community in Oakland often ends up in San Francisco's shadow, so we want to offer them more support."

The main threads of this year's conference are racial and social justice, responding to "unprecedented attacks of the right wing to drive a wedge between African-American and LGBT communities, to keep them from working together on issues of justice and equality," Sklar said.

Leaders of the African-American community are scheduled to speak at the conference, including the Rev. Yvette Flunder, founder and senior pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco.

Workshops will address such topics as "Building power in communities of color," "Healing the black LGBT soul" and "Combating the black church's homophobia."

Founded in 1973, the task force foundation became the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights and advocacy organization in the country.

For more information and a full conference schedule, visit http://www.creatingchange.org or call (202) 641-5592.